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Coach, Mentor, Adviser, Consultant? I Don’t Care, I’m A Small Business And I Just Need Help.

I was lucky enough to meet Kerrie Dorman of The Association of Business Mentors last Tuesday evening at an innovation event at the very cool and creative Custard factory in Birmingham. Apart from meeting interesting people and discussing a wide range of innovation topics there was wine and cheese. What's not to like?

I have been advising businesses for some time and it still confuses me; am I a mentor, a coach, a consultant, or an adviser; or even advisor? You see, if you check out the spelling even various dictionaries and the mighty mother googleship are confused.

So what chance does the SME owner or MD have?

As someone said, sorry I can't remember who "you know who you are":

"the SME doesn't care, all they know is they need help"

You see frustration and lucidity sometimes go hand in hand.

So I did what I often do in these cases and ordered a book from Amazon. Kerry Dorman recommended The Mentoring Manual by Julie Star and it is winging its way to me right now so when I fathom it out I will give you the definitive, first world problem-solving answer.

.......and just as I am typing this, the wonders of one click ordering at Amazon have come up with the goods. The book ordered at 8pm last night hit the doormat. From Dorman to Doormat in 24 hours, not bad. So here it is, the definitive-ish definitions:

A Mentor has a personal interest in the person they are mentoring, there is no judgement involved, it is about the conversations and although the mentor may feel responsible he is not accountable for results. The coach develops specific skills for the task, challenges and performance expectations at work; very similar to a coach in sport.

Consultant or Adviser is a bit tricker. Often used synonymously, there are subtle differences between the two. Consulting is typically considered a process to help a company uncover a specific problem and arrive at a solution. Advising is usually a longer-term relationship. The advisor helps uncover problems, but more often directs her clients on where to go for help.

But as the man said, who really cares as long as we coaches, mentors, advisers [or advisors] and consultants know what we are doing, and are doing good stuff in a good way?

I work with startups and mature businesses across several sectors including sport and fitness, technology, and a whole range of other SMEs and I guess sometimes I am a coach, sometimes a mentor and sometimes an adviser. Bottom line, the Association of Business Mentors looks like a really good thing so, Kerrie get ready, the Membership form and subs are on their way.

If anyone wants to talk, or has any comments, give me a shout and I will offer something to you, although I may not know what to call it. You know where I am although I may not be sure what I am.

Patrick Burge is Co-Founder of Smorgasbord Startup Services who offer a range of business advice, services, funding and mentoring to Startup and growth companies in the UK.

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