A business coach or a mentor? Which is right for your business?

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“I think a lot of people don’t know how much they need a mentor until they have one.”—Roxanne, South Africa-based entrepreneur

A business coach or a mentor—which one should you get for your business?

The first thing to be aware of is the timeframe of the relationship. A coaching relationship is more likely to be short-term—6 months to a year—with a specific outcome in mind, such as driving sales from one particular channel. However, a mentoring relationship tends to be more long-term, lasting a year or two, and looking beyond just the present challenges.

This inevitably makes us wonder about the focus of said relationships. Coaching is performance-driven, designed to improve the entrepreneur's on-the-job performance. On the other hand, mentoring is more development-driven, looking not just at the entrepreneur's current position but beyond, taking a more holistic approach to business development.

Now let's talk about expertise—who's better? Both business coaches and mentors are experts in their given fields. Coaches tend to specialize in a specific business area, let's say logistics or marketing, while mentors can provide a more holistic approach to understanding the bigger picture and making adjustments accordingly.

Mentors tend to be entrepreneurs themselves, so their understanding of the moving pieces of operating a business can be rich and rooted in years of experience.

Finally, what can you expect to gain from either a coaching or a mentoring relationship? A coaching agreement is usually specific, showing signs of improvement or positive change in the desired performance area and rooted in accountability for meeting those goals. Mentoring relationships can have more flexibility to shift and change over time and focus on the overall development of the mentee or business.

"Mentoring has been crucial for the growth of my business. It’s amazing to workshop ideas with an astute business person who is rooting for me."—Cera, US-based entrepreneur

Business Coaches vs Mentors

Now that you have a basic understanding of the difference between coaching and mentoring, how will you know which is best for your business?

Coaches can be an expensive investment, and they expect to be paid for their services. Don't confuse this as saying that coaches are all about money, but it's how they make their living.

On the other hand, mentors on MicroMentor share their expertise entirely for free and want to help other entrepreneurs succeed. Mentors have different backgrounds and usually value a strong work ethic and the impact they can have on their communities.

Think about it this way: mentors see their younger or less experienced selves in the entrepreneurs they choose to help. They have already taken the hard road to success and they are excited to share that experience and, hopefully, help you avoid some of the challenges that they faced.

Mentors might not have the same amount of time to share as a coach, but they put all of their hearts into helping their mentees with each hour or conversation they have together.

So with that being said, which one should you choose? Let's say you have a particular objective in mind for your business, such as amplifying your brand's awareness, and a small budget to help you achieve that goal. Still, you don't know how to reach that goal by yourself. A coach could be the right choice to guide your hand through every step necessary to complete your goal.

Instead, suppose you're a business owner that wants to grow your business but is not quite sure how to do so. You may know that you need to create a marketing strategy, but you are unsure of where to start. In that case, a mentor can take the whole picture into account and help you envision your personal success as the end goal.

“The biggest value is having a relationship where there are no unrealistic or unfair expectations…[my mentors] genuinely want to give back.” —Katherine, UK-based entrepreneur

The Myth and Truth of Finding a Mentor or Coach

Finally, where can you get a coach or a mentor?

Some entrepreneurs might have luck starting within their own network to find a coach or mentor. Referrals from trusted sources can be a great way to find someone you can trust with this important advisory role. Facebook and LinkedIn can be great sources for finding coaches or mentors within your industry.

If you are like many other entrepreneurs, however, you may not have access to the kind of networks that can connect you with the right people to help guide you through starting and growing your business.

You may already be familiar with the concept of a mentor, but you may have never thought about finding one for your business. That's exactly where we come into play: MicroMentor has devoted the last 10+ years to create a worldwide network of mentors and entrepreneurs.

That means that finding a local or international mentor for your business is now easier than ever. The MicroMentor platform is entirely free to use and with only one goal in mind: helping entrepreneurs find and connect with experienced mentors who can help them tackle and overcome their current business challenges.

The connections made in the platform have allowed for incredible amounts of success in businesses needing a guiding hand to accelerate their growth and steer away from the terrifying but all-familiar idea of business failure.

If finding a mentor for your business is what you choose, then the steps are clearer than ever. Simply sign-up at the link below, then answer some questions to determine your business stage and what challenges a mentor could help you overcome (click here for some more tips on filling out your profile). After creating your profile, you will be prompted with some suggestions from local and international mentors that fit your business goals.

All that's left for you to do is to browse, find a mentor that you believe could bring value to your business, and then send them a private message requesting their help.

Once a mentor gets back to you, the relationship can start to develop. Most mentors have their own processes for getting to know the entrepreneurs they connect with. So expect some questions and be prepared to share the challenges you are facing as your business develops.

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