When it comes to our personal lives, we’re pretty familiar with the idea of a coach or a mentor. But if you’re part of a small business or nonprofit, the idea of business coaching and mentoring can seem a little daunting or over-the-top for your needs. Some hesitations come down to not truly understanding the heart of what business coaching and mentoring is. Even though a lot of small businesses and nonprofits are wary of costs—one study showed that budget was the top concern when it came to making a decision about business coaching and mentoring—many professionals argue that it’s an investment you can’t afford to do without.
WHAT IS BUSINESS COACHING AND MENTORING? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
Business coaches and mentors both want the same thing—to see you and your organization grow, often through training and direction. Because there can be some overlap between the two roles, sometimes the terms “coach” and “mentor” are used interchangeably. And even though it might seem nitpicky to distinguish between the two, it can be helpful to understand the difference between what business coaching and mentoring is so you can know which would be more beneficial for your organization’s needs.
WHAT IS BUSINESS COACHING?
Let’s start with business coaching. Think about a high school basketball coach. The best coaches want to see your personal growth in addition to your athletic growth. But how do they do that? They teach you how to be a great basketball player—how to handle the ball, rebound, set a pick, and make the layup every single time.
In the same way, business coaches want to see your business grow. But more often than not, they have a specific area of expertise. Maybe they know the ins and outs of a particular industry—national park tourism, private education, or online art sales—or maybe they focus on a specific organizational niche—executives, sales, small businesses, or nonprofits, for example.
Business coaching is about training business leaders or teams in specific skills. It often occurs in a formal relationship between a trained coach and a client that can either last for a set period of time or until certain established goals are met. Business coaches can be pricey, but more often than not, they’re trained and certified in specific areas that business leaders probably can’t just DIY.
WHAT IS BUSINESS MENTORING?
So then, what is business mentoring? Typically, mentoring is more informal and relationship-based. Rather than a coach who trains you to work through specific challenges, mentors are seasoned business leaders who’ve traveled the path successfully already. They’re ready to pass on their wisdom and advice from their years of first-hand experience. They’ll help you know a bit more about what to expect and teach you from the good and bad decisions they made while in your shoes.
Still confused about the difference between what business coaching and mentoring is? Here’s a helpful analogy. Both coaches and mentors help guide you to a destination. While a coach will show you all the possible routes you could take, training and preparing you for the road ahead, a mentor will show you a way he or she has traveled before.
Both want to see your business grow, but understanding the difference between the two can help you begin to evaluate which would be more helpful for your organization and current needs.
OK, BUT WHAT’S THE VALUE?
Just like a personal coach or mentor, regardless of which option is right for you or your team, there are clear benefits to the guidance that a business coaching or mentoring relationship can have on your organization.
LEARNING NEW THINGS
It probably goes without saying that a business coach or mentor can help you learn new things. While a coach can train you in skills that are needed to run your organization in your role or industry, a mentor can also teach you the things they may have learned the hard way along their own journey.
GETTING OUT OF A RUT
One of the most routine and universal challenges of running an organization is—put simply—getting stuck. Sometimes it’s staring you in the face and you can’t seem to find a way forward. Other times, you might not even realize that you’re in a rut—maybe your days are full of administrative tasks or meetings that aren’t really getting you anywhere. Having an outside perspective can show you areas where your business or team might be stagnant or show you new areas to grow that you never would have thought of on your own.
But more than just helping you to see these things, a business coach or mentor can help you and your team move through these challenges. Whether they’ve been there before in their own personal journey or worked with other teams and leaders who also felt stuck, an outside perspective might be exactly what your business needs to find momentum again.
CATCHING A VISION
Your vision matters. It’s what drives you and your team. It’s at least part of what your audience finds so compelling about your work, whether they realize it or not. It might make for late nights and early mornings. But guess what? Your vision is what moves your brand forward.
But, when the tasks pile up—when you need your brand’s vision the most—that’s sometimes when your vision gets foggy. (Check out a previous blog post for more on this!) Whether you work with a business coach who asks you the right questions, or a business mentor who answers the right questions, they can help your organization reorient itself when your mission falls to the backburner and you forget to make the most important things the most important things.
Sometimes success is based on how hard you work. But usually, there are more ingredients in the pie than just hard work. That’s why networking is key—not just for individual success but also for business leaders who want to put their best foot forward. The good news? A business coach or mentor can probably connect you with the right people. If your relationship is centered around trust, they’ll probably be excited to connect you with their network.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FIND BUSINESS COACHING & MENTORING THAT WORKS FOR MY ORGANIZATION?
Now that you know more about what business coaching and mentoring is, how do you get started? Start your search within your own network. Anyone can give advice, but it might not be good advice. You might have a personal connection with a coach or mentor or someone from your network can connect you with someone they trust. Starting with people that you trust is likely to find you a better fit than hours of scouring the internet.
Finding someone is just the start. For a more in-depth look at how to evaluate coaches and mentors, this article walks through practical ways to make sure a coach or mentor is a good fit.
At Anna Montgomery & Co, we offer business coaching for brand development, web development, and marketing. Are you interested in learning what a partnership with our team could look like for your organization? Connect with us to learn more!