Perhaps the most valuable single tool for any business owner is a good business coach or mentor. Having someone to provide guidance, brainstorm ideas and hold you accountable will enable you to move your business to the next level.
Having said that, simply hiring a coach or finding a mentor is not enough. You need to make sure you are choosing the RIGHT coach or mentor. Otherwise you may be simply wasting your precious time.
There are seven things you should consider carefully before choosing a business coach or mentor. Whether you are talking to one of our business coaches, a competitor or a potential mentor, we recommend you consider each of these factors before making a choice.
Look for someone who has real life business experience. Fancy degrees don’t give you a real understanding of what it’s like in the trenches. Ideally you want someone who has failed as well as succeeded.
Ask a potential coach to speak to you about his or her own experiences. Ask for testimonials from former clients or mentees.
Consider your specific needs before entering into a coaching relationship. Is it important to work with someone who has expertise in your industry? Are you looking for help in a specific aspect of your business, such as process development or staff management? If so, you might be best served by a coach or mentor with expertise in this specific area. Or do you need a business generalist, someone who is able to help you grasp the big picture?
Once you are clear about the expertise required, ensure you ask for qualifications and experience that demonstrate that expertise.
You want a coach who will have high expectations – this will help you to reach higher. As you reach higher you not only start to push your business forward, but make yourself a stronger business leader.
Ask your potential coach or mentee what they will expect from you. If it doesn’t scare you just a little bit, then they might not be the best option.
You want a coach who can make herself available when needed. Seek out someone who is willing to communicate via email, text, phone and in-person. Find out about a potential coach’s other commitments. If they are overloaded you may find they are not there when you need them.
It’s important that coaching and mentoring is tailored to your specific needs. Avoid coaching programs that are overly structured and inflexible. Ask your coach how they will go about structuring your program and ensure that it will be custom fit to your needs.
One thing a good coach should be able to offer is connection: potential investors, bank managers, possible clients or suppliers. Talk to your coach or mentor about their networks and how you might be able to tap into those networks.
Finally it’s a good idea to seek a coach or mentor with a bit of backbone. A pushover is not going to be able to hold you accountable – and ultimately that’s one of the most powerful things a coach or mentor can do for you.
When considering a coach or mentor ask yourself if you feel challenged. Is this someone who will let you get away with being less than what you want to be? If so, he or she is not the right choice.