Three important things a mentor will help you to do (that you can’t do alone)

Want to start, grow or scale a business? Find out how working with a business mentor will help you make more progress than struggling alone.

Building a business or freelance career can be lonely. There’s no manager to advise you and hold you accountable, and no colleagues to turn to for help and support.

So it’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs invest in mentoring to help them reach their goals. But exactly how can a business mentor help you?

Before we look at three things a business mentor will help you do that you can’t do alone, let’s find out what their role is, and how a business mentor differs from a business coach.

What is a business mentor?

A business mentor is someone who works with you to develop and improve your business ideas and strategies. They are usually a successful entrepreneur themselves and share advice, knowledge and experience and connections to help you become more successful.

What’s the difference between a mentor and a coach?

There are some key differences between business mentors and business coaches. While both provide guidance to help you reach your business goals, and call upon the experience of the person coaching or mentoring you, mentoring is more directive than coaching.

This means that in a mentoring session, the mentor will probably be doing more of the talking and offer direct advice, while in a business coaching session the coach will ask you questions and let you do most of the talking.

Three important things a mentor will help you to do (that you can’t do alone)

So how can a business mentor help you? And specifically, what can they do that you can’t do alone? Here are three important things.

1) Business mentors give you an objective perspective

There’s one thing that no business owner – no matter how successful they are – can ever have, and that is an objective perspective on what they are doing.

We are all far too close to our businesses to get a clear view on what we are doing, how we are perceived, and where we may be going wrong.

This is where a business mentor can really add value. As an outsider, they have a clearer picture of what is happening in your business and some of the opportunities and threats you are missing. They can suggest changes and improvements, and even spot solutions to problems you are unable to solve.

They can do this because they are not involved in the day-to-day running of your business, and aren’t emotionally invested in it. They also will have a wealth of business experience of their own to draw on, and many of the issues you are tackling will be problems they themselves have solved in the past.

They can often foresee consequences to decisions you are making (again, based on part experiences) and steer you in the right direction, too.

The insight and experience of a good business mentor will save you time, stress and money in helping prevent you from making the wrong decisions, and move you closer to the goals you are striving to reach – in a way you could never do alone.

2) Business mentors give you the confidence to follow through on decisions

There are many big, brave decisions that need to be made as an entrepreneur. You might have to put up prices, close down part of your operations, or deliver bad news to customers or staff.

Even when presented with evidence that these decisions need to be made, it can be very difficult to push the button on them when you are working alone. But a mentor can make this much easier, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is likely that you will have made this decision with the guidance of your mentor in the first place. You’ll have drawn on their experience and talked through options and consequences with them. So once a decision is made, you are absolutely confident it is right and needed, and that there is no alternative. This alone can help you take steps to implement it.

You also know you have their backup and support when taking action on the decision, and if you encounter any pushback or issues, you can turn to them for advice and/or resolve.

In the many years I have mentored small business owners and freelancers I have helped them make plenty of big decisions. This includes changing target audiences, raising prices, redefining packages, adopting new branding, launching industry certifications, outsourcing part of the business, dealing with difficult people, and more.

In every circumstance we would discuss the issue at hand, options and consequences, and agree together the best way to proceed. They would then act on the decision, with my full support.

How Kayleigh’s brave decision made her £10,600

One example is Kayleigh Fawcett-Williams from Wildlifetek. I advised Kayleigh to change her target audience and adopt a more direct messaging when promoting her online course.

This felt like a very big decision, with a lot riding on it. But Kayleigh trusted my advice and made over £10,600 in her course launch as a result:

How Amanda’s brave decision helped her triple her profits

Another example is Amanda Overend from Books & Pieces. When we started working together she was stretched to capacity, but not earning enough money.

One option she looked at to free up her time was outsourcing the picking, packing and shipping of her products. However, this would add to her expenses and was a very significant step forward.

Together we looked at options, ran the numbers and explored what Amanda would do with the extra time this bought her, and how that time would help grow the business. We decided that it was worth trying, so Amanda took the leap – and she didn’t look back.

Within weeks Amanda had tripled her profits thanks to the decision. And when we went into lockdown a few months later, she was able to scale her business significantly – to the point where she was turning over more in a day than she’d been bringing in in an entire month just two years earlier. (You can read more about Amanda’s story here.)

So you see, business mentors aren’t just there to help you find the right ways forward; they guide you along that journey and give you the confidence and strength to follow through.

3) Business mentors hold you accountable for actions

There is one, final bonus to having a business mentor: accountability. It’s easy deciding to take action, but actually following the steps and doing the work is more tricky.

There’s always so much that needs to be done, and it is easy to de-prioritise tasks we don’t like, find hard or require bravery. However, when you have promised a business mentor that you will get something done by a particular date, you are far more likely to actually knuckle down and get on with it.

In short, accountability makes us more productive, efficient and helps us to earn more money. And it is hard to self-generate accountability. There are some strategies that can help: for me setting completion dates in a calendar and writing daily to-do lists help keep me on track. But nothing ensures that I really get everything completed quite like a promise to a mentor.

It’s not just about doing the work, either. A business mentor will agree the timeline with you in the first place. And they will call you out if they think you’re being too unambitious or shying away from something when making plans.

So not only will you have a timeline and deadline in the first place, but you’ll be more likely to actually follow a plan and reach your goals.

I give my mentees ‘homework’

When I work with business owners and freelancers I like to give them ‘homework’. Basically these are tasks that are aligned to the big goal they are working towards, and ensure they make steady progress each week or month.

We agree these tasks together, and we check they have the time, resources and confidence to complete them. Then, in our next meeting we check in on their progress.

I find this works really well in keeping people moving forward. For me, business isn’t about bursts of energy and big, lucky breaks. It’s small, consistent steps in the right direction. Over time I have found this is far more likely to result in a strong, profitable business that aligns with its owners values and interests.

How to find a business mentor

I can’t emphasise enough how valuable a mentor is when growing your business or freelance career. It can make the difference between giving up or failure, and confident, steady success. And it’s not just your business that will grow: a good mentor will help YOU evolve and increase in confidence and ability too.

Just be careful, when choosing a business mentor, not to fall for the toxic sales pitch of people who don’t genuinely have the experience to offer, or don’t have your best interests at heart. As a rule of thumb, I would avoid anyone who:

  • Talks about six/seven/eight figures
  • Uses hard sales techniques to tie you in (such as free events)
  • Makes you sign a contract that favours them
  • Uses conflict with others to gain your trust

Sadly, many business coaches and mentors promoting themselves today have no genuinely successful business experience. They have only made real money by selling their coaching/mentoring services.

Many have not run a business before, while others have run businesses that have failed or performed poorly. I have even seen someone struck off from being a director selling her services as a coach for a significant sum!

These people have no genuine business experience to share with you. All they can teach you, in my opinion, is to how dupe others into trusting you, as they duped you.

Before working with any business mentor, I recommend doing thorough due diligence. Ask what businesses they have run, and independently check their claims. (I’ve seen many a doctored screenshot and false boast shared on social media from a ‘self-made millionaire’.) If they run a limited company you will be able to double check any claims on Companies House.

Mentoring is an investment that should reap rewards

I hope you have found this article helpful. I appreciate that hiring a business mentor is a big decision – and it should be. But, from experience, if you find the right person to work with, it is an investment that should reap significant rewards.