When you are in business by yourself who do you have to reassure you that the next step is the right step? (or warn you when it’s not?) Give you solutions to specific problems that you are struggling to solve? Brainstorm with and bounce new ideas off? Celebrate your successes or pick you up when the going gets tough?
Well, there are people out there who will do all of the above. People who have been there and done that – not necessarily in your exact market, but close enough to guide you and share the highs and the lows of business with you. These are experienced entrepreneurs who can give you the correct business tools and advice when you need it to help make your business a success.
These people are business advisers, mentors, coaches and collective peer boards – and you’ll find that almost every successful entrepreneur has one.
Like the saying goes – a problem shared is a problem halved!
So, what is the difference between a mentor, a business coach and a collective peer board?
Business mentors are people who want to share their years of experience and pass on their high calibre business knowledge – to you. They thrive off the fact that their past business successes (and hard lessons learnt from failures) are helping the next generation of entrepreneurs to fly.
A mentor will help you focus your attentions on the right areas to make you grow both in confidence and in business. They will also be there when you need them – to listen to your current concerns or obstacles and offer you appropriate perspective.
With a mentor, you are not only tapping into their years of experience but also their vast network. They can introduce you to a wealth of contacts, suppliers, senior decision-makers and even prospective customers.
But choose a mentor carefully. This person is going to be joining you on your business journey – so make sure you get along, can talk freely and openly with them and, most importantly, that they will add value to your business. Check out The Association of Business Mentors and The 12 Ronnies Foundation!
Similar to mentors, business coaches are there to provide support, to listen and to help you reach your business objectives. They also have a wealth of business knowledge and a wide network of contacts which they can share.
However, coaching focuses more on identifying and maximizing your existing skills and knowledge so that you can perform at your full potential. A coach will place a greater emphasis on your own personal business attributes and strengths.
He or she will look at your whole business plan, management reports and business financial results before advising you on the best way forward. Think of a business adviser as both a coach and a mentor and somebody who will challenge you and to create the correct strategy and plan.
Meet with several recommended advisers, mentors and coaches before deciding on who to choose. They should offer a free initial meeting – get to know you session. Then decide – who could add the most value to your company? Who would challenge the way you think and work? and, who did you like and trust the most?
Collective Peer boards:
Collective peer boards are a great way of engaging with multiple fellow businessmen and women to solve your business dilemmas.
The chair of the group, an experienced business adviser, will keep the meeting flowing and get the best out of all the people present.
As an small business owner, you can benefit from discussing internal company issues in a confidential and supportive environment. And, with the help of the other peers, you will gain new perspectives and opinions that can keep your business fresh and moving forward. After all – several heads are better than one!
As the board meeting is made up of senior decision makers from non-competitive industries, there is no conflict of interest or stepping on people’s toes. And, whether your own business challenge is big or small, expect a diverse range of frank and honest suggestions which will help clarify your thinking.
Another great source of help in the UK is the Federation of Small Businesses. You can find out more about them (and get a discount on your membership) here.
For more advice on setting up your own business, why not follow BuBul on LinkedIn?