I’ve been doing mentoring for a few years now, both with organisations like Local Enterprise Offices as well as private events now and then, when I have time. I think going to a mentor/advisor and being a mentor/advisor is a good idea.
Sadly a lot of charlatans have ruined the idea of business coaching so you now have someone with no qualifications that’s just a liar pretending they have a clue about business. The percentage of con artists in “business coaching” is as high as “social media gurus” that work in digital. The advice these people give is plain dangerous. Just another version of the celeb “nutritionists” that can fix autism with some grape seeds.
Getting good advice can help a hell of a lot. We take advice and pay a good price for personal trainers, we take advice from running coaches, from dieticians, counsellors, we should do the same for aspects of our business too.
I do find value with business coaches but they need to be real business coaches. I did a course at the end of 2015 and start of 2016 funded by Management Works. It was run by Actioncoach Ireland. I got training and advice from someone that was properly trained in understanding businesses and knowing what works for a business. They also had years of working with businesses so had a rich tapestry of experience in this.
Most business fundamentals will greatly help a business when done right but most businesses are too busy being businesses to reexamine the fundamentals and get them right. Coaches can quickly see how your business works and communicate simply what you need to do. These people are worth every penny.
Advice for choosing a mentor, advisor, coach
Some thoughts on choosing a mentor/advisor/coach.
- Pick a person that will push back against you and tell you (politely or not) that your idea is crap but will go on to say how to change it to make it better. The worst person you can have is a yes person.
- Choose someone that has experience. Ask for proof. When I see startup advisors who are only on their first company and it’s barely 18 months old giving advice to startups, I want to smother them with their branded hoody. I’m not sure someone in business less than 2 years has any qualification to give you any advice and I wonder why they have time in their new company to be able to give advice.
- Keep the sessions short. At the end of the session, have a to-do list. In between sessions, implement the to-do list. The standard length that orgs giving per session is 3 hours but after 90 minutes both parties become mentally exhausted.
- Implement the God damned advice. I’ve found myself giving the same advice to people at mentoring sessions over the years. Same business, new writing pad, same stuff written down and never done.
- A mentor cannot and should not be able to answer or suggest a fix to every problem you have, and you should have loads. Pick specialists. Get mentoring for just sales, mentoring for finance.
- Know what you want to cover. I really get annoyed when I ask someone what they are looking for advice on and they go “I dunno”. The clock is ticking, I’m being paid anyway but me being paid to figure out what you need isn’t efficient.
Why you should mentor
I guess this is advice to people that aren’t already mentoring cos the fakesters would be the first to say they’re coaches and are already offering their services. Both giving training and mentoring has made me better at my own business. In a way there is a business advantage to doing mentoring and it’s not the fairly low standard rates you get from State bodies for it. It’s this: the more businesses you encounter, the better you are at understanding business more and understanding markets more. In the Digital Strategy courses I do, we spend time on defining customers – mentoring is a live version of this with companies coming to you and telling you how they work. You ask questions to figure them out even more. I find giving training sessions has me learning new things nearly every time because those on the course ask questions I’ve not encountered before and mentoring is the same.
Will I mentor you?
No. Like I won’t meet you for a coffee to chat about your business. My chunks of time are broken into half day sessions. Less than that and it’s not worth it.