A question that business owners often ask, is: ” What will work best for me, a business coach or business mentor?” The difference between the two can be confusing, so let’s clear it up as best as we can.

Both coaches and mentors are experienced business owners, consultants or leaders who have been successful in their careers and can bring an objective view to your business, which will help you improve your performance. While the aim of both coaching and mentoring is to help you achieve better outcomes from your business, the method of getting there – the journey – is quite different.

The Role of a Business Mentor

The defining factor of a business mentor’s role is that they have experience in your specific industry. Accordingly, they will help you understand the business norms and best practices in your industry. A mentor will also give you direction on what path they think is the best one when you are making key decisions. An important point to note here is that because a mentor knows more than you do, they will give clear recommendations, which you will be expected to take.

This works well in corporates and large businesses, where those with more experience mentor those with less experience, particularly when you, as the client, are new to a role or function, and where the mentor truly does understand the industry and business better than you do.

As a business owner, however, identifying the best approach for you: business mentor or coach, can be refined down to one question: how directive would you like this person to be? If you want someone who will tell you what to do, choose a mentor, for they will provide specific solutions to problems you are having, and recommend their preferred route when you are faced with choices.

If you decide to go with a business mentor, however, make sure you choose the right mentor for you – one that has experience in your industry and, if possible, in your industry niche.

The Role of a Business Coach

Where a business mentor coaches through telling, a business coach believes in your inherent wisdom and ability to make the choice that is best for you. They are aware that your personal goals and style of leading will result in you making a unique set of decisions that reflect what matters to you. Let’s face it if you own a kitchen design business, you know if you want to:

  1. be the biggest supplier of kitchens in the country,
  2. supply a smaller range of kitchens, at the highest possible margin, or
  3. want to be known for beautifully designed kitchens that utilise sustainably sourced products.

We all have our own way of looking at the world and the choices we make reflect this.

Coaches inherently respect this – and support you to choose the path that is best for you, believing that you need to be the author of your own life.

For this reason, a business coach will support you to set clear goals and identify strategies and a set of concrete actions that will enable you to achieve your goals. They will then walk beside you as you take this path, and challenge you if you start to veer off the path. They will also hold your feet to the fire if you put off decisions or actions that you need to make to achieve your goals.

But they will not tell you what to do.

They will be there for the long haul, acting as a sounding board when you need to bounce ideas around or help you stay motivated and connected to your vision when you start to lose sight of where you are going.

Getting started

It’s surprisingly easy to get started. To get results, a coach will sit down with you to define your goals and create a strategic plan.  They will then meet with you regularly to review where you are at, and whether the actions you are taking are achieving the results you need, so you can revise and update the plan as necessary.

Once you are clear about where you want to go, they will ask questions that will help you get a bigger perspective on the issues and opportunities in front of you. In this way, they support you to make the best decisions you can – and help you to achieve what you are capable of as a business leader.

They will also help you to develop clarity on the strengths and weaknesses of your business, and what you need to do differently to strengthen the foundation of your business so that over time its performance constantly improves. Read more on business coaching here.

The Alternative Board - OwnersAuckland WestBusiness Mentoring vs. Business Coaching: Which is Best for Your Business?