Business owners get better results when they ask for and get the right help. But how do you know who will be the best advisor for your business?
The UK sector for business advice is vast, currently offering around 45,000 differing sources of business advice. Coaches, consultants, advisors, mentors, trainers.
Unfortunate fact: Number one
Unfortunately, the sector is unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a business consultant of one type or another without qualifications, industry credentials, or even any business experience whatsoever!
Promoting professional, credible Business Mentoring in an unregulated sector is one of the reasons I’ve been a member of The Association of Business Mentors for a number of years.
Always do due diligence on any services you are commissioning and carefully check advisors credentials.
There are two major categories: business coaching and business mentoring.
The two are often mixed up and small business owners ask for or get recommended the wrong type of support. This often results in poor results, the advisor getting the blame and the sector getting a black mark.
Here is my view on the difference for what it’s worth.
What is Business Coaching?
A Business Coach focuses on the business owner or leader, to help them overcome a blockage and help achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
They work on the assumption that the business owner already knows everything they need to know about their business. They probably have the answers but haven’t asked themselves the right questions yet.
A coach uses trained questioning techniques to help business owners access the answers they need to solve problems as they work through a programme or series of exercises.
They do not provide answers and it is usually a short-term piece of work to overcome the blockage.
Anybody can become a coach with suitable training.
What is Business Mentoring?
Business Mentoring is a completely different approach.
A Business Mentor works with the business owner and the senior team to develop and deliver a business plan.
They use questioning techniques to tease out what is already known and add to this with their own experience of running a business. They can empathise because they have been in that situation before.
Because of the nature of the work, it tends to be a longer-term piece of work,
Only those that have run a business can be a Business Mentor.
That’s a significant difference.
Unfortunate fact: Number two
It’s heart-breaking that 95% of SMEs ultimately fail.
Unfortunate fact: Number three
Only 23% of small businesses have a written, shared business plan.
Unfortunate facts two and three are related.
A Business Mentor should have good business credentials, certainly business experience. Many have run businesses; they’ve been there and have the scars to prove it. They’ve put the hours in, boot-strapped their enterprises and learnt the hard way.
A good Business Mentor can empathise with the business owner’s position. As a result, they approach the support relationship with a business mind rather than an educator’s mind.
Their approach is fluid, working through all the business areas with key players or even the entire team.
Together, they create a plan and help get the business from A to B more quickly, efficiently and profitably.
Don’t do that, do this!
A Business Mentor offers accountability. They help review and update the plan and provide focus and clarity to stay on schedule and the ensure the motivation to get it delivered.
Part of the team
The most effective Business Mentors become part of the team. When it works well, you will feel they are on your side, wanting the business to succeed, even though that may involve making and supporting tough decisions. They will examine your systems, processes, personal and professional motivations, and skillsets forensically. They will share their experience, skills and contacts.
They will tell you hard truths. They provide tough love.
The Business Mentoring relationship can last long into the history and success of a business.
A Business Mentor offers:
- A sounding board
- An independent and confidential ear
- Access to their black book of contacts
- Proven strategies and tools (tried, tested and relevant to your sector and market)
- Perspective (an alternative view)
- Personal support and a sense that you’re not alone