You know some external support would really help your business reach the next level. That’s pretty common - most entrepreneurs go through this phase. But what you’re less sure about is which path to follow. There’s a wealth of choice, and your networking meetings are packed full of people telling you they’re the best fit for your company.
With so many options it can be tricky to know where to start or even fully understand the differences between the types of support available. I hear this from businesses so often that I have outlined three of the most commonly available forms of support and provided some pointers to help you make informed decisions.
Remember, there is no one single solution that fits every situation. There is a role for all of these types of support and you may find different options useful at different times.
Get quizzed by a coach
Coaching is a technique which is based on expert questioning and facilitation techniques.
During a coaching session the coach will ask you questions which are designed to support you by examining an issue in more depth, ensuring you are considering all available options and exploring your thinking and rationale as you look for a solution.
In general during a coaching session you’ll be doing the majority of the talking, in response to questions posed by the coach. Coaching is a great option if you are facing issues where the barriers are primarily internal (for example, your confidence, the way in which respond to external circumstances, personal tendencies, etc.).
When you are choosing a coach you should choose them on the basis of their experience and success as a coach. A great entrepreneur may be a terrible coach, and a great coach may not have any relevant business experience.
Mull it over with a mentor
Mentors typically support businesses by sharing their own thoughts and experiences on how they’ve tackled similar issues. A mentor is usually someone you admire and who has experiences or successes to which you relate or aspire.
In general during a mentoring session the mentor talks more than you do; you’ll want to make the most of the opportunity to hear their thoughts and experiences. Mentoring is a great option if you want to be sure that you know about all of the options available to you and to learn from the success of others.
A great mentor will often have experience of the sector you work in, and ideally they should have some breadth of experience so that they are drawing on multiple sources of how organisations tackle issues.
Probe your peers
Action learning from your peers can be an informal process, such as a regular meet up in a coffee shop, or something more formally constituted.
Peer-to-peer support is a reciprocal arrangement; a group of entrepreneurs share experiences and ideas in order to support each other. A great session should be a meeting of equals, with everyone contributing and benefiting.
Peer-to-peer support (and action learning) is a great option if you’d like a sounding board to test your options and if you want to learn from the experiences of others who are at a similar stage in their business. Sessions of this type often work best when the participants are not direct competitors and where you are working with individuals who you like and whose opinions you value and respect.
Some businesses will use all of these services at different stages in their business. I’d recommend that you have a clear idea of the type of support you want before you start talking to potential providers. But most of all, it’s important to note that whichever type of support you choose, it’s the quality of the individuals or providers you work with that will be the biggest determinant of how effective the service is.