The word ‘Coach’ is normally related to the sports world; referring to someone who helps a person to improve their performance in a particular area. The word ‘Mentor’ (which originates from the character Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey) tends to mean a wise and trusted adviser who teaches or guides someone less experienced.
So, what is the difference between a Business Coach and a Business Mentor? The answer, on the face of it, is not a lot. However, whilst there are many areas of overlap, there are also significant differences.
A quick search on Google will find you a whole host of business coaches, some who are also growth or life coaches, but all with the aim of helping you to grow your business. Similarly, Google will find you many business mentors whose aim is exactly the same, to help you grow your business.
Let’s look for a moment at the sporting world where coaching is so prevalent. A coach’s role in this field is to improve your skills in a particular area of whatever game you are involved in. For the tennis player, it might be improving your serve, your volley, your backhand; for the golfer it could be improving the long game or maybe the putting. A mentor in the sporting world would be more akin to the relationship between say Sir Bobby Charlton and David Beckham; one of advising and guiding the younger man how to fulfill his dreams and achieve his potential.
By definition, in its purest form, a business coach will look to improve a business owner’s skillset in particular areas, such as the management of staff or managing processes within the business.
The nature of coaching is to not tell the person what to do, but to help them find the answer themselves. For example, they may ask, ‘You want to improve how you manage your sales team, so what does that look like in terms of the financials?’ ‘What stops that happening now or gets in the way?’
Typically, a business mentor will have run their own successful business or have risen to a senior position in the corporate world where they have been responsible for running a department or division of the business. Along the way they will have learned a great deal and have much practical experience to share. So, there is an element of ‘been there, seen it, worn the T-shirt and done it.’
The business mentor will discuss the bigger picture with the owner; essentially ascertaining where he/she wants to take the business? They will give advice on how to create a strategy to achieve that growth, looking at new markets/products or acquisitions. The mentor will advise and guide on all of these areas, drawing on their own experience to help the owner achieve their potential.
In the above examples the comparisons are pretty clear. In reality, many business coaches also describe themselves as business mentors and vice versa so it’s hardly surprising that a business owner might be confused!
I myself am a business mentor. I also provide business coaching services. In reality, however, that is only a small part of what I do. The bulk of my time with clients is spent advising, guiding, questioning or challenging their views on any number of areas from people management to strategy.
Typically, most of our clients come to us because there is an itch they want scratched. They may have started the business several years ago, seen considerable growth with some good successes but all of a sudden, things are not going as well as they could. It might be that the growth has faltered, the owner is working increasingly long hours and becoming frustrated or disillusioned with the business or indeed with his or her staff. This is the time to call upon some help to remove that itch and help you to see what is good about the business, what needs changing and what hurdles need to be removed to enable you to take the business to that next level.
Broadly speaking, if you have identified a few areas of management that you need help with, then it’s more than likely to be a coach that you need. If it is the bigger picture strategy and growth you are seeking help with, then a business mentor is more likely to be able to help.
The most important aspect is that whether it be a coach or a mentor, that it’s someone you feel you can work with because if the rapport is not there between you it is very unlikely that it will work.
One of the very best ways to find a coach or a mentor is through recommendations from other business owners who have been helped by that individual. Personal recommendations are usually the best, however If you don’t know anyone who could refer you then resort to good old Google, identify a few, browse their website and ask yourself ‘Do they feel right for me?’
You can also click here to search for a UK business mentor near you.
Wherever you find them, make sure you look at the number and quality of their client testimonials because these say much about just how good they are (I know because we have over 170 reviews on FreeIndex alone!)