You Might Need An Impartial Business Advisor, Not a Pat On The Back!

Published September 30, 2015

For small business owners, particularly those at early stages of growth, fellow entrepreneurs might recommend that you get a mentor; but do you know what to expect? Is getting a mentor the right choice for you and your business? Donavan, a Non-Executive Director at mad4digital, an internet marketing agency for SMEs, shares his perspective having been on both sides of the fence.

When you’re first starting to establish your business, it can be challenging to get your footing. You might enlist the help of a mentor; when you do this, you can expect to receive general career advice, emotional support and role modeling. The bond created with a mentor typically defines success; business performance is often a by-product of this relationship, as opposed to being the main outcome.

Mentoring support:- Throughout the mentoring process, you can expect to grow as an individual, but that may not necessarily translate into business success. A mentor can help you build your confidence and character, but this is only one part of growing a successful business. While mentors do provide essential support, the risk is that they may not always have the expertise in your field to give you the best strategic, or relevant, operational advice.

The business advisor:-  For a small business to grow, you need an element of impartiality, and this is unlikely to come from a mentoring relationship where you are personally connected. We can take a cue from larger businesses. Often, well-established companies get a non-executive or business advisor on their board to challenge their thinking and help ensure they remain on track. They are purely focused on business outcomes; they understand your sector and bring valuable lessons to your team. If you have a particular gap in your knowledge (e.g. Sales, Human Resources, Finance etc.), a non-executive or business advisor might be what you need.

As your business evolves, the challenges you face will evolve, and you may even need to pivot or change your business model. Decisions like that take a strong will and decisive action – something that someone intrinsically tied to the business may find hard to do.

It is possible to have both a mentor and a business advisor – occasionally it’s the same person – but remember that the roles are very different. Choose wisely.

m4d tip – You may find someone (business advisor or mentor) who will be willing to provide their expertise for free – a simple search on Linkedin could be a good place to start.