Do you have a coach or mentor? Many small business owners do. So do the CEOs of most large corporates and many other senior executives too. They know the value of having an impartial person to support them. Someone who will challenge them and to whom they can show vulnerability when there are difficult decisions to be made.

It can be particularly lonely running your own business. This is especially true if you are used to working in an office as part of a team surrounded by others. Family, friends and, if you have them, colleagues, can be a great help. However, they all have a vested interest in what you do. Getting independent support of some kind is really invaluable.

You may choose to seek out a mentor who will act as a sounding board and give you advice. Or you may decide to have a small business coach who will give you structured support at key times in growing your business.

If you don’t already have a coach or mentor, please make it a top priority to find one. Not sure which to choose? Let me help.

Here’s my quick analysis of the key differences

Coach Mentor
Has coaching experience, but not necessarily any experience or expertise in your specific business area Has experience in your sector, or has other business experience that you are likely to find useful
Should have had formal training – and may ideally also have a coaching qualification Does not need to have had formal training in mentoring (although some organisations do provide this) and is unlikely to have a formal qualification in this or a related area
Typically a structured relationship with agreed meeting frequency – typically fortnightly or monthly at outset Often an informal, on-going relationship, rarely more frequent than monthly and often less
Depending on approach, may steer the discussion around pre-agreed topics or may follow your lead at each session Typically responds to requests from you for information, guidance, etc. rather than instigating the discussion
Is likely to ask you probing questions and use tools and techniques that help you to draw out your own answers to challenges Can be called upon from time to time to answer questions, share expertise, suggest useful contacts and make introductions
Often coaching full-time as their primary profession, although sometimes combined with related work such as training or consulting Usually not mentoring in a full-time capacity, but prepared to give help and support alongside their day job
Is committed to spending time 100% focused on you and your needs May be difficult to find time to meet or interact, given the demands of their job
Treats you as an equal Usually speaks from the perspective of having greater experience than you
Almost always paid Often unpaid


So which is right for you?

If you want a mentor, think carefully about the skills and experience you need from them. There are some formal mentoring programmes. These are usually organised within organisations or by industry-specific professional bodies for their members. If you have access to one of these, then do investigate whether it can help you. If not, identify individuals who you look up to as role models (in your field or a related one). Then contact them to ask if they’d be prepared to mentor you.

Alternatively if you’d like to explore coaching, do get in touch. I’d be delighted to explore whether I can help you. And if I’m not the right coach for you, I know plenty of others. So I may be able to connect you to one who is your perfect fit!