Running a business can be a lonely place.
Many business owners find themselves needing additional support to help them on the path to being an effective leader. This support can come in many forms, from a mentor to a third party consultant. But how do you know what’s right for you and your company?
The first step is understanding what you need and want from the support that you enlist. This article gives an overview of a few of the options available to help you identify what suits your needs best.
Personal business mentor
A mentor should be someone who you respect and look up to and who has your best interests at heart. This mentor can be just about anyone, as long as they can offer the experience and knowledge that you need. Many people find their mentors through previous roles, or professors with whom they are acquainted.
A good business mentor should be focused primarily on your goals as a leader and business owner rather than on the business itself. They will act as a guide, helping you to become the best leader you can be. This article from Entrepreneur Handbook has easy-to-follow steps to finding a mentor.
Some of the benefits of engaging with a business mentor are:
Building your network
As someone who has a lot of experience behind them, a good mentor should be able to help you in the process of growing your network. Not only will they have a wealth of contacts from within their own network, they will also be able to provide you with tips on meeting the right people and building rapport.
Clearing your path
When you are in charge of a company, it can be difficult to know what the next steps should be, how to grow the business sustainably, and where the path you are on could lead. Mentors help you see your next steps clearly by defining your goals and clearing the debris that obscures the path.
With all of the experience that a mentor has, they’ll also be an excellent resource to refine ideas. While most people are stuck in the ways that they have learned to do things, using the advice of a mentor can help you rethink your options. They may even be able to suggest ideas that you wouldn’t have considered through your own thinking.
If seeking out a mentor doesn’t suit your needs, a coaching service may be preferable. There are many business coaching companies available in the UK like ActionCOACH or The Alternative Board. These types of coaching services are different from mentoring because of both the approach that a business coach takes and the timeframe within which they work.
Unlike a mentorship, which is usually an ongoing personal relationship, a business coach will focus on the business itself. This will include setting goals and KPIs (key performance indicators), setting up processes and developing a growth plan. A coach will then hold you accountable to ensure that the advice they give is enacted.
It is important to note that, unlike a mentorship developed through interpersonal relationships, a coach is usually a paid-for service. This means that you will be hiring a third party to help you set and meet business goals. These coaches often come from a variety of backgrounds, so you should interview a few to make sure that their personality and experience is right for you and your business.
Sometimes, you may not need someone who has a broad understanding of the business itself, but who, instead, has a deep understanding of the sector that you are in. In this instance, it is likely that you are either in the set up phase of your company or are investigating routes for growth. Engaging with an expert in the mortgage industry can help you determine your direction with more clarity.
Many times, a brokerage firm can benefit from someone with more experience helping them understand the direction of travel for the sector. Particularly during times of upheaval, engaging with someone who has been in the market during similar events can be beneficial.
In addition, if you are looking at expanding your specialist knowledge, it can be helpful to work with an expert in that field. They’ll be able to guide you away from making any of the mistakes that they made and should offer support in growing that area of your business.
If what you and your business need is not personal experience, but a clear, step-by-step approach to achieving your goals, you may be looking for a growth model. These can be any of a large number of models available. You can determine which type you need based on your business’ areas of opportunity, be they operational, strategic, or people-oriented.
Using an operational model, such as the EOS model, will help you define how your business delivers value and how the company is run. These types of models are especially helpful for businesses that are looking to change their structure or are in need of help to remove internal friction.
Strategic models are designed to encourage well-considered planning based on opportunity. Much like operational models, there are various tools you can utilise to introduce strategy to your business. These models will help you develop your own growth plan and are likely to be a part of any consultancy that you engage with.
People development models
Developing employee skills can often be the best way to fill gaps in a business. Introducing a system to develop your people can elevate virtually every business from both employee and customer satisfaction points. There are many methods for instilling a learning culture in your business. Instructure, a learning and development platform, has created a useful guide if this is the route you choose.
With all of these types of business consultancy, it’s important that you work with someone whose input you both value and respect. There are some consultants out there who will not put your interests first and doing your due diligence before bringing a third party into your business is vital.
Try to go to well-respected organisations or individuals that you trust. If you have been given recommendations from people in your network, this can be a great place to start.