How can I find the right support, advice and guidance in my business?
No entrepreneur has ever done it all alone… You need help, but what type of help?
No human being has ever achieved anything of note on their own. Humans need other people, for support, guidance and belonging. We are wired that way. A mentor of mine used to say: Right now there’s a monkey in Africa, dying because he’s been kicked out of his tribe. We can not function in isolation. That doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes like being on our own, and some people need more alone time than others, but we all need support.
Skip ahead to the relevant sections:
In business we need other people to:
- To reality check our assumptions
- To brainstorm
- To hold a mirror up to us
- To develop strategic plans
- To hold us accountable
- To give us outside perspectives
- To pick us up when we’re down
- To give us a sense of belonging
- To give us honest feedback
Some of that support can come from our friends and family, but accountability, holding up a mirror, independent perspectives and honest feedback especially, mostly can’t come from those close to you. You can’t ask your spouse to hold you accountable to your strategic Goals, it leads to divorce, trust me on that. Your friends won’t provide an independent perspective, because they’re not independent. Your brother can’t hold a mirror up to you, because there’s too much baggage in your shared history.
It takes a village
People who build Great Businesses that Stand the Test of Time, know it takes a village and they are always looking for the right support. My oldest and most successful client, actually has three different business coaches, and he cycles between us. He does 6 months with me and then he goes and works with his coach in New Zealand and then he does a stint with his executive coach and then he comes back to me again. (You can read the story of Narinder Singh from QE foodstores here)
Besides the three coaches Narinder has developed incredibly powerful relationships with his external accountant, with an HR consultant, a marketing consultant, an IT consultant and a property adviser. He’s involved all of his advisers in all of his decisions and planning in the past 10 years, and he credits his team of advisers and coaches with the fact he is so successful. (He’s a humble man, so let me put it on record now that his success is at least equally due to his incredible passion and determination, but the point remains).
As I said above, we all need support when developing our businesses. And what’s more, we need different kinds of support at different stages in the journey. I myself have employed, mentors, coaches, consultants, counsellors and therapists in the past 15 years and I’ve joined various different business support groups at different times as well.
The main forms of business support:
Mentors are often people who’ve “been there, done that”. They’re usually a bit older, they might even be retired and they often have direct experience in your specific industry or business type. Some mentors do their mentoring on a volunteer basis, others get paid a little or a lot. Mentoring can be really powerful in the early years of developing your business. I believe the most effective method to find a great mentor is to find someone you look up to in your industry and approach him or her and simply ask them. Many senior business owners really enjoy being asked to “give back”. I have have taken a role of mentor for some young business owners in the past and you can feel free to contact me to discuss a mentoring relationship. There are also a number of small business mentoring organisations you can contact. One of them is the Small Business Mentoring Services, find out more here.
Whether you work with a volunteer mentor or a paid one, there is one thing you must keep in mind to get the most out of the relationship: You have to drive the agenda. When you sit down with your mentor you have to know what specific questions you need to address in the meeting and what input you need from your mentor. If you don’t control the agenda you’ll waste enormous amounts of time and the mentor will start to feel uncomfortable. (More about the secrets of great mentoring relationships here).
Business Coaching Companies:
Business coaching companies generally have developed a system for growing a business and their coaches will teach you the system and help you implement it. One of the best organisations I’ve come across who do exactly this and don’t stray outside of that model are EOS Worldwide. Their Australian franchisee is contactable here. I believe it can be very useful to work with the right business coaching company for a while, to learn their systems and get help with it’s implementation into your business. But to build a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time, you can’t ignore the personal side of growing your business: Find an executive or leadership coach or someone like me (see below) to support you in the journey of personal development and leadership that is integral to creating the business you dream of.
Business – Life Coaching:
I am a Business – Life Coach. (More about my background here, more about my Fun in Business Coaching Programs here, and more about the Principles of Business – Life Coaching here) What that means is that I start from the principle that “Your business is what it is today, because of who you are today” (More about my philosophy of Change and Coaching here and also in this article about Change here) This means that if you want your business to change, you must be prepared to change first. You can read more about my saying: “If you want something you’ve never had before, first you’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before” here.
So I, and coaches like me, combine the “hard” business systems with the “soft” personal skills. I will teach you about the latest business management systems and techniques, design new systems customised to your business and help you implement them, but at the same time we’ll be working on what it takes to be a great business owner. We’ll work on leadership skills, self management skills, developing your vision, prioritising, goal setting, strategic thinking, planning, communication, people management, and how to get out of crisis management. More about the difference between business coaching companies and a Business – Life Coach like myself here.
Executive Coaching/ Leadership Coaching:
An Executive or Leadership Coach is skilled in helping people develop their leadership skills. Executive coaches are more often engaged with executives of larger organisations than with small business owners, but one of the three coaches that Narinder Singh, who I talk about above, works with is an executive coach. There are many executive coaches to choose from. The best I can suggest is to do an introductory session with 3 different executive coaches and make your assessment based on how you feel at the end of each of the three sessions.
Choosing an executive coach is nearly 100% about how you click with him or her. Feel free to send me an email to ask for a referral to a trustworthy executive coach. You might also have a look at the website of the International Coach Federation, it’s the professional body of record for executive coaches worldwide.
Pulling together an advisory board for your business can be a highly effective strategy to get the support you need to drive the development of your business forward. You can create your own board and ask a bunch of people you trust, with varying skills and experience to become part of your board, and maybe meet with them once a month for 2 or 3 hours. You may decide to pay these board members a fee for their time and input or you may ask them to sit on your board on a voluntary basis, and you yourself may in turn do the same for someone else. Advisory boards like this are often really valuable and offer great support, but they can sometimes be short lived, because of time pressure on various board members.
You can also join an advisory board program run by specialist organisations. Those programs are usually run by a professional facilitator and there might be anywhere from 5 to maybe 15 members on a board, all of whom are business owners and the members meet every month and support each other. I run a board program like that from time to time called The Business Growth Club and there are various other organisation that do the same thing such as TEC, The CEO institute and Coraggio. I’ve also written a White Paper about benefits of Advisory Boards that you can download here.
Business study and training:
At different stages on the journey of entrepreneurship it may be important to improve your skill and knowledge levels. When moving from solo-entrepreneur to small business owner and beyond it can simply be beneficial to go back to school and learn about the latest business management techniques and philosophies. You can go to university and take post graduate or summer school courses on specific topics in marketing, innovation, management, leadership etc, or you may enroll in a full MBA program.
Alternatively it may be more relevant for you to engage with the Vocational Education and Training system (VET, via TAFE or via many registered private training organisations in the country, more here) The Business Growth Club program I mentioned above often incorporates a VET training component, leading to the Diploma of Business or to a Diploma of Leadership. More information about the Business Growth Clubs here)
Further reading about business support
- My one-on-one and group coaching, mentoring and training programs.
- Case studies of current and past clients and their experience with coaching
- Is your business coach really a consultant?
- How to find a great coach
- Why I didn’t need a business coach
- Funny Cartoon: The ultimate test for your coach
- Why I don’t believe in Coaching and why it works