It’s lonely in business – who can help?

Running a business is hard and lonely. Even with multiple people involved it can be difficult to vent frustrations or know what your next move should be.

We all have a different definition of success, but there’s one thing I know for sure. Everyone who has achieved their success has done so with the help of a coach in one form or another.

A great coach will hold you accountable. Even the most self driven, action taking people will use a coach to hold them accountable. Why? Because it’s easy to get distracted and veer away from your priorities, usually without realizing you’re doing it. A great coach will help you determine your priorities and then keep you on track with them. A coach will help you set deadlines for achieving actions and goals and help you get clear on the strategy and tactics you’ll use to achieve them.  This in itself will get you and keep you motivated.

Being able to speak openly and candidly about your business challenges such as your team, customers, suppliers and your own self limiting beliefs is paramount. When you allow these to build up inside they begin to fester and it becomes increasingly difficult to know how best to deal with each situation.

There are many different types of coach with different skills, values, attitudes and approaches.

Different people need different things, but there has to be a synergy.

So do you need a coach? A mentor? Or a consultant? I’m sure you’ve heard all three terms used in connection with helping people and businesses to improve, but often they’re used incorrectly.

Let me briefly share the difference between a coach, a mentor and a consultant. It’s important to be clear on this because it will help you identify the type of person who can help you.

What is a business consultant?

A business consultant is a person with academic qualifications or significant experience in a particular field which they can apply to another business. Examples might include a fire and safety consultant, a marketing or pricing consultant – not to mention the all-encompassing category of ‘business consultant.’

Now, think back for a moment to the last time you asked for advice. My bet is that this was reactive – you had a particular problem and consulted a professional/expert in that area.

A consultant will listen to the particular challenge you face, assess the situation, and provide a set of recommendations – a prescription, if you like – that you can follow to overcome that challenge.

Undoubtedly, consulting has its place. Sometimes we need a prescription – a quick fix we can follow to put right things which are simply not working.

A consultant tells us what we need to do.

What is a business mentor?

A mentor is someone who’s been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. They’ve already made a particular journey. They have experienced the pain, overcome the challenges and gained a wealth of experience in the process.

This experience means not only that they’re able to relate to your situation, but that they can also suggest great ways to improve it.

They can teach you and train you to think like they do and share the processes which worked for them. Processes you can then apply to your own business and life to achieve similar success to

A mentor relates, suggests and teaches based on their own experience.

What does a business coach do?

Coaching, in my view, questions in ignorance.

Let me explain.

The purpose of pure coaching is develop the thinking ability of the coachee in order to develop them. To help them discover answers and solutions for themselves.

A coach isn’t afraid to ask the obvious questions – questions that all too often are taken for granted. Or to ask people to explain why they do what they do and how things could be better.

A good coach won’t give or suggest answers. The answers lie within the coachee themselves. The coach’s role is to ask the thought-provoking questions that help them get to it. They do this not by asking leading questions that go to a pre-determined answer. Instead they remain open in their questioning, refuse to pass judgement and continue to drill down until the coachee develops a solution.

Even if the coach possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in this particular area and could easily provide a solution, they shouldn’t. Helping the coachee to discover answers
for themselves develops the coachee and often creates something unique and innovative from the situation.

That’s why I say: A good coach questions in ignorance.

Blending the three – but in the right way

All three roles have their place. All three are incredibly important – but I believe the best approach is to switch from role to role depending on the situation.

Personally, when I’m working with a business owner, I adopt the role of the coach as described above, asking open, non-leading, thought provoking questions. All designed to help the business owner come up with solutions they haven’t previously thought of themselves.  Most of the time this is effective but occasionally, bringing some external ideas to the table really helps. At this point I’ll switch to a mentor, or at least a hybrid one. I’ll share examples of what my other clients have done to overcome similar problems whether it’s the same industry or not. And then we’ll explore ways to modify that solution to fit the current business. It may just spark off enough ideas to create an even better and more appropriate solution.

And sometimes, when the need arises I’ll adopt the consultant approach. Perhaps they are in such a state of overwhelm or fighting so many fires that they can’t think straight. So I simply tell them exactly what they need to do and how to do it to get to a better place. These recommendations may simply be a summary of the ideas we’ve discussed during the session or they may come from elsewhere.

When I’m on the receiving end of business advice, I don’t particularly like being given the answers until I’ve exhausted my own thinking. The questions a great coach asks you will get you thinking in ways you wouldn’t naturally do.

So I would highly recommend tapping in to the help of a coach/consultant/mentor. They’ll help you stay focused and hold you accountable. And they’ll help you strategically grow your business in a way that reduces stress and the number of hours you have to work and increases your profits and your enjoyment.

Need some help?

All AVN members have regular coaching sessions with an experienced Practice Growth Expert. To find out more about how AVN membership supports you, call us on 01246 571191 email or book a discovery call at