How are business coaches different than mentors?

blog Nov 01, 2022

As a business owner, you may have heard the terms “business coach” and “mentor” used interchangeably. 

While both coaches and mentors can provide valuable insights and guidance, there are some important distinctions between the two. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between mentoring and business coaching, and how each can benefit your business. 

Importantly, we’ll then look at how best to apply either one to help grow your small business, with ease

What is Business Coaching?

Business coaching is a professional relationship in which the coach (usually an expert in business or management) helps the client (usually a business owner or manager) to identify and achieve personal and / or professional goals. 

Business coaching works (with the right coach) because you, the business owner, are usually the expert on what the business does - whether it be lawn mowing, brain surgery or anything else. 

To build a business that does those things requires an extra set of skills. 

In essence, they are:

  • Leadership
  • Managing people
  • Product development
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Production, and
  • Finance. 

Many business owners don't have enough skills in these areas for the particular business they run - and this is what is holding back their business.

The coach provides support, advice and accountability, but it’s important to understand - a coach does not make decisions for their client.

Historically, business coaches would work one-on-one with their clients. 

Typically this would involve the business owner and coach determining:

  1. Where you are now
  2. Where you want to be, and
  3. Creating a roadmap to get there. 

The coach then works with the business owner to action that roadmap into a logical and achievable plan.

It’s now increasingly common for coaches to work with clients in group settings. 

This both reduces the individual engagement cost for clients, whilst at the same time offering the benefits of working together with a network of other clients who are potentially facing similar challenges. 

It obviously reduces the individual attention you receive from a coach, so needs to be weighed up against the benefits.

We have two forms of group coaching for you to consider:

  • Community: we have one Group Coaching Webinar a month (and a separate Mastermind Webinar), and
  • Business Transformation Program: this group coaching is smaller, with 8-10 business owners, and an Accountability Chair working in more detail with each owner, and making everyone more accountable to their growth plan

Business coaching can be an incredibly powerful tool when the relationship works well. 

It’s worth noting that a good coach does not have to be an expert in their field. 

The power of coaching comes from the coach's ability to help build the necessary thought patterns and skills of their client - it’s not about the coach doing the work for them.

Typically, the benefits you will receive from coaching will include some or all of the following:

  • A good coach will provide an independent perspective on your business. Having a non-biased view of your situation and decision making process, can really help when you are faced with making big calls in your small business
  • Typically, a business coach will have their own professional background and education offering a new set of skills and toolkits to bring to your business problems and opportunities. In turn, a good coach will help you build your own skills and capabilities
  • A business coach can be very powerful when they hold you accountable to actions you need to be doing. Often, when you’re the boss there is no one to hold you accountable to delivering on the long-term priorities and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of running the day-to-day business operations
  • A good business coach will also bring an expansion to your professional network through their proven connections of professionals and small business owners, and
  • Bringing together the above points, having a trusted business coach working with you can really help build your confidence and leadership skills - making your business journey far more successful and enjoyable, compared to being on your own.

A Fortune 500 company wanted to study the ROI of business coaching. 

They found that 77% of respondents indicated that coaching had a significant impact on at least one of nine business measures

In addition, they uncovered that overall productivity and employee satisfaction were the most positively impacted areas (which in turn has an impact on customer satisfaction, employee engagement, quality, financial results, and more). 

In all, their study concluded that coaching produced a 788% ROI. 

The study noted that excluding the benefits from employee retention, a 529% ROI was achieved.

That's because a good coach can help you overcome your limitations, work smarter and achieve more than you ever thought possible.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is a professional relationship in which the mentor uses their experience and expertise to help the mentee grow and develop in their business. 

The mentor provides guidance, advice and support, but again, does not make decisions for the mentee. 

Mentoring often has a long-term focus.

Many business owners have found great value in having the guidance and support of a mentor who has “been there, done that”. 

The benefits found in mentoring will often include the following:

  • An independent sounding board from someone who has perspective and experience relevant to your situation and interests
  • The ability to seek guidance and advice through an informal relationship
  • Potentially an expansion of your professional network as your mentor offers introductions to other people who may be able to help you
  • Not to be underestimated, there can be real benefit in venting your problems with a trusted advisor - even if you can’t immediately solve them, and
  • Like discussed with business coaching, having the support of a wise head in your corner can really help build your skills, confidence and leadership ability.

Main Differences Between Business Coaches and Mentors 

While business coaches and mentors both offer guidance and support, there are some key differences between the two: 

  • Coaching typically focuses on achieving goals, while mentoring takes a more holistic approach to business and career development
  • Coaching is usually a more formal and structured engagement than that with a mentor
  • Coaching is typically bringing a range of tools and techniques to solve a problem, whereas mentoring is typically relying on the experience of the mentor, and
  • Coaches work with clients from all different industries, while mentors typically only work with mentees who are in similar industries as them. 

Finding Business Coaches in Australia

As with any professional engagement, determining which coach will best suit your needs will come down to firstly understanding what you are looking to achieve from the relationship. 

Some coaches will focus heavily on an industry, others a skill set, and others will focus on the coaching process itself.

There are a range of ways to find business coaches, I would recommend some or all of the following:

  1. Be clear on what you want: When selecting a business coach, it’s important to consider what you need from the engagement, what goals you have, and what sort of coach might be best to support you. Every business coach will bring different capabilities to the table. For example, are you looking for support with an emphasis on your particular industry, do you have a particular problem or are you looking for generalist support to develop you personally?
  2. Make sure they can help with the issues you’re trying to solve: Discussing your goals for the engagement, finding out what process they will take you through, and getting thoughts on past experience in the same area, are important steps in determining if they will be the right fit for you
  3. Test the personality fit: Making sure the coach you work with is a good fit for you is an important step in the process. Usually, an in-person meeting over a coffee is a good starting point to see if you gel
  4. Check reviews from their other clients: There is a range of coaches who advertise online, however this comes with all the usual caveats around finding people of appropriate skills, experience and quality. Finding past clients that can talk about how the coach helped them solve similar problems or achieve the goals you have can be a useful guide, and
  5. Seek trusted recommendations: It’s often a good sign if you can get someone you trust to recommend a business coach. Finding a trusted network of other business owners and professionals who can recommend good coaches is a much safer bet than working with someone unknown and unproven.

Finding Business Mentors in Australia 

If you’re interested in finding a small business mentor in Australia, there are a few different avenues you can explore. 

Here’s some tips to consider: 

  • Reach out to your industry association: Many industry associations offer programs that pair experienced professionals with small business owners or entrepreneurs 
  • Attend networking events: These events provide an opportunity to meet potential mentors who can help you grow your business
  • Listen to coaching guests we’ve had on our cast: If any resonate with you, reach out to them and mention where you came across them
  • Look for online programs: There are many online programs that connect small businesses with mentors from around the world and  
  • Consider who you know in your own networks: Often, some of the best mentors are people you have already met and are dealing with, or are recommended from trusted associates. An existing connection often makes it easier to connect on a personal level and gives the mentoring relationship a great head start.

It can sometimes be daunting asking a respected person to mentor you. 

You will be surprised how open people are to give of their time, to help other small business owners through a mentoring relationship.

Many people who mentor get just as much value from the relationship as the mentee. 

The experience of “giving back” can be highly rewarding for mentors.

Conclusion and next steps

Do you really need a coach or mentor? 

Well, in my mind, why make your own small business mistakes when you can have someone who has already dealt with those issues to help you stay safe? 

If you look at most seasoned and experienced business leaders you will typically find they use coaching and mentoring in various ways, to help accelerate their performance.

Business coaching and mentoring are both great ways to gain insights and guidance as you grow your business. 

However, it’s important to understand the difference between the two before you decide which one is right for you. 

If you’re looking for help achieving specific goals, then business coaching might be the best option. 

If you’re interested in longer-term development, then mentoring could be a better fit. 

Either way, a great starting point is deciding what you are looking to achieve from a coaching or mentoring relationship. 

Whichever route you choose, reaching out to an experienced professional can help you take your business to the next level. 

Here at Grow A Small Business we provide support, resources and networks to help you grow your business, with ease. Coaching and mentoring is a definite accelerator of business performance and something we strongly recommend. 

If you’re interested in finding coaches or mentors for your business I suggest you start by joining our Community, and asking our network for someone who might fit what you need. 

We hold two webinars a month:

  • A Mastermind, where an expert goes deep on a topic (eg. recruitment), and 
  • A Group Coaching session -  small business owners in the Community put forward their business issues and growth challenges, and Michael, Troy and I (and the other Community members) chime in with how we would tackle those problems.