What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor? If you answered “I don’t know,” you’re not alone.
In my time working with thousands of young entrepreneurs while managing the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, students sought out coaches and mentors to get their questions answered and their businesses off of the ground. Embarrassingly, like many of the entrepreneurs I work with, I had never taken a second to think about or realize the difference between a coach and a mentor, until recently.
At #ICON16, the emcee mentioned that his job is different than that of a mentor. As a business coach, his job is to push business owners and make them uncomfortable in order for them to grow. I decided to dive a little bit deeper into the difference between the two, because as an entrepreneur, it’s important to know what help you need and be able to go to the right source to find it.
Here are what mentors and coaches are and do for entrepreneurs, and how they differ.
A mentor is someone who has been where you are now and has achieved what you want to achieve. Mentors are caring and understanding while giving hard to hear advice from their first-hand experiences. They can give insight into what has worked for them, what has failed, and what they have yet to try or experience.
Think of a mentor as an interactive non-fiction book with an amazing resource section that includes their life story and information for others who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Who Needs a Mentor?
When uncertainty arises in your business about a specific aspect of your company or challenge you’re facing where a decision has to be made, a mentor can help give you information to improve your chances of making the right decision. This relationship usually lasts for years once fully formed, mirrors a friendship around a shared topic, and is not frequently tied to a financial relationship (no exchange of money between mentor and mentee).
A coach gives you the tools to succeed and pushes you to challenge your capabilities and test your limits. A coach gets you out of your comfort zone and prepares you for the game. Similar to the job of a coach in sports, a business or life coach helps you see challenges both short and long-term. Not only is the next game important, but it will play a role in how you accomplish your ultimate goal – to win the championship – whatever your championship looks like.
Think of a coach as a personal trainer – they know how to get fit and push you to work harder. There is typically an exchange of money and these relationships begin and end based on payments or a mutual exchange of value or trading of services.
Who Needs a Coach?
Coaches are needed when big goals or large shifts are needed within yourself or business. You have money to dedicate to your growth and are able to act on and respond to feedback and guidance. Coaches are often seen as more of a self-help tool than a business tool, but there are thousands of business coaches available for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Differentiating Mentoring and Coaching for Entrepreneurs
Mentors and coaches serve an important purpose that can help businesses get unstuck and help entrepreneurs expand their thinking and move forward. The difference between the two comes down to the nature of the relationship.
Mentors are not paid. Mentors are not good solutions for unmotivated people who aren’t able to accomplish things without someone constantly standing over their shoulders. Mentors also give insight from their experiences, which means if you’re looking to do something innovative or different from the competition, you might not find the answer from a mentor. However, you will receive advice and likely a friendship if you return value to the relationship.
Coaches are paid and are not likely to remain a lifelong friend. They are paid for their expertise and if they are good at what they do, they can push you to be better. Coaches are not long-term solutions, but their impact, if you’re able to keep up with what they’ve given you (the tools, processes, etc.), can create long-term change.
There is no right or wrong answer to which is best for you or your business, but building a network around your business can reap rewards, and these connections are more likely to be mentors rather than coaches.
Keep seeking information and to grow your business, but don’t wait to take action until someone yells at you or tells you that it worked for them or not. You control your business. It’s your responsibility and no one cares about your business more than you. Make the changes needed to achieve your desired level of success.
Looking for information to grow your business with? Check out the TREPX Podcast. Here are a few episodes I recommend starting with:
If looking for more information on business mentors and getting mentors for your business, here are a few great resources:
Want to look for a coach for your business? Here are some resources to start with: