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Business Coaches vs. Business Mentors

Jun 22, 2015 | Business

Business coaching used to be a luxury for start-ups. These days, it seems almost a necessity. Or is it? Let’s take a look.

First, the difference between a coach and a mentor. A mentor has done what you want to do. S/he has walked that road successfully, and so can help you walk it faster. Or at least know what challenges you’re probably going to face and when. A business coach knows business. The process of starting and successfully running a business is pretty much the same, regardless of what the business is. In fact, many businesses fail because they don’t recognize that. Being great at what you do is not enough.

Think of it like building a house. The steps are the same, no matter what kind of house you’re building, what size, where you’re building it, etc. Step #1: Prepare a good foundation. Step #2: Frame the building. Step #3: Install plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning. Step #4: Put up drywall. And so on. Follow those steps and you’ll end up with a good, solid house.

It’s the same with business. One of the most prolific entrepreneurs I know is Dan Vega (10/29/14 and 2/25/15). He’ll partner with people who have a good idea and a sound business plan. He opens three or four businesses a year that way. Yes, really. Every year. He doesn’t run them. In most cases, he has only a cursory understanding of what the business does. It doesn’t matter. A business is a business and Dan is one of the best illustrators of this that I know.

Dan is a business coach; he is not a mentor. One of the businesses he’s started is a publishing company, for instance. He is a partner in at least one publishing company. If the other partner, the one who handles operations, wants a mentor, he’ll have to find someone who did, or does, own a successful publishing company.

You should really have both, but if I were to pick one, I’d say a coach is more important to a start-up. Get yourself up and going first. Then a mentor can help you structure it.

But back to the original question, do you really need a coach?, yes. I’ve had sooo many business coaches on my show and that’s one of the things they all say. You know the part you are passionate about, and that’s almost never the business side of it. Get some help with that.

Now, how do you choose a coach? Man, that’s not only a whole other blog post, that’s a whole other book.