Coaching vs Mentoring for Entrepreneurs: Which One Should You Choose?

For anybody who has launched a business, they’ll tell you that it’s not easy. No matter how much preparation you do, new questions and unforeseen problems will add themselves to your never-ending list.

It’s enough to overwhelm anybody.

If only you had some guidance. Someone to show you the ropes. Somebody who has answers to your questions.

Fortunately, this guidance is available in a business coach or mentor. But did you know that a coach and a mentor aren’t the same?

While there are similarities between coaching and mentoring, there are some differences to consider. In this guide, we are describing some coaching and mentoring examples and how you can find them. Also, we’ll help you answer the question looming on your mind:

Coaching vs mentoring: which one is right for me?

What’s the Difference, Anyway?

Time Frame

When you hire a coach, it will usually be a short-term relationship. For example, you might want to hire a business coach who specializes in business start-ups if you’re just getting started. However, a different business coach may be more suitable for upgrading your marketing strategy.

Mentors, in contrast, tend to be long-term relationships. Mentors help entrepreneurs by drawing on their success and years of experience. A mentor’s advice can help entrepreneurs navigate through several stages of their career.

Goals

Business coaches tend to be more task-driven than mentors. You hire a business coach to help you achieve specific goals. These goals can range from increasing sales, improving office morale, and tightening your brand. Business coaches often create checklists to ensure you’re following their program.

Mentors are more development-driven. Their advice is meant to help you grow as a business leader. A mentor’s approach is more about offering insightful advice, rather than a step-by-step program.

Structure

A business coach will often assign you “homework.”  They will usually schedule weekly or monthly check-ins with you to review your progression.

A mentor-mentee relationship is usually characterized by informal advice. Advice delivered in a more conversational style, not so much instructional like a business coach.

Expertise

Coaches are often specialists in specific business operations. Some specialize in leadership, marketing, sales, or more. Their knowledge is highly specific and tailored to improving certain gears within your business.

When you choose a mentor, you draw from their well of experience and success. A helpful distinction is that a mentor will help you focus on the forest, whereas coaches are trained to help you grow specific trees within that forest.

When Should You Hire a Business Coach?

Usually, you want to hire a coach where a certain situation calls for it. Here are some instances where hiring a business coach is useful:

You Need to Develop a Specific Skill

The variety of business coaches available range far and wide. Some business coaches can help you with your branding and marketing. Or you might want to hire an Amazon expert to improve your ecommerce store. Some may help you with something as specific as your presentation skills.

Invest in Your Team

Many business coaches offer training programs that you and your team can participate in. If you want to boost office morale, increase productivity, foster teamwork and more, then a business coach can make that happen.

One-on-One Training

Like a mentor, a business coach can offer one-on-one training to fast-track your development. For example, if you want to start doing more speeches but you’re an awful speaker, then a coach can help you with that. They’ll work with you to improve your body language, projection, and confidence.

How to Choose a Business Coach


A business coach can elevate your business, but how do you choose the right one? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a business coach:

Determine What Business Stage You’re In

Some coaches specialize in business start-ups. They’ll help you write your business plan, secure inventory, and launch your store. However, you may outgrow that business coach who brought your from idea to launch. You may need to hire a coach who can take you from launch to a six-figure business. 

Identify Your Weaknesses

Maybe you’re having some trouble with your marketing strategy. A business coach will help you make tweaks to your marketing strategy or might inform you that you need a total strategy overhaul.

Also, remember that hiring a coach doesn’t always have to be starkly business-related. Again, you can hire a coach to help you be a better public speaker or even how to be a better business leader.

Remember Your Company Culture

Some business coaches might forget to factor in your company’s culture and values. For example, a business coach that advises you to scale aggressively and hire staff when you want to operate as a lean small business, indicates that your values don’t align. Your business coach should help you elevate your business, not demolish and rebuild it.

Review Their Work History

Do your research on prospective candidates. Have they worked with businesses of the same size and within the same industry? What do their testimonials say? Do they offer any case studies?

When Should You Choose a Mentor?

Having a mentor from the very start of your journey and throughout can be deeply rewarding. Having a mentor can help you run your business more efficiently for greater profit. In fact, surveys show that business leaders with mentors increased their revenue by 83% compared to business owners without mentors.

It might be that mentors encourage business owners to overcome their struggles and exceed their limits. Motivational coach Bob Proctor says:

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

Also, having a mentor will help you normalize good habits and behavior. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says that you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.

If you surround yourself with people who smoke and procrastinate, then you’re more likely to smoke and procrastinate. If you surround yourself with brilliant business minds, then you are more likely to make better business decisions as an entrepreneur.

Therefore, having an experienced mentor to guide you along your entrepreneurial journey can be extremely helpful. The below video covers what to do and what not to do what choosing a mentor:

Mistakes When Choosing a Mentor

Choosing a mentor is different from hiring a business coach. While hiring a coach can be beneficial, it’s still very much a transactional relationship. I pay you money and you teach me what I need to know.

With mentors, it’s more about building a relationship rather than conducting a transaction. Even with mentors, there are certain relationship mistakes you want to avoid:

Mistake #1: You Make It All About You

A mentor-mentee relationship is like having a relationship bank account. Your mentor deposits into your relationship bank account and you withdraw from it.

Too many people choose mentors because they want advice, they need guidance, and they seek answers. However, your mentor is doing all the depositing and you’re only withdrawing.

Do this instead: You need to make deposits into your mentor’s relationship bank account, as well. That means offering value to your mentor.

Whether that’s helping them with their own business, leveraging your own network, or even working for free, you need to fulfill a need for your mentor.

Mistake #2: You Don’t Put Yourself Out There

Many entrepreneurs send an email to  a successful (but often busy) businessman, asking them to be their mentor. However, asking isn’t enough. You need to take more initiative. 

Do this instead: Put yourself in a position to be seen. Face-to-face interaction is invaluable. You can do this by going to conferences where prospective mentors gather or by interning for a company your mentor runs.

Of course, face-to-face interaction isn’t always possible. In this scenario, you can participate in an online community or join a mastermind group.

Mistake #3: You’re Not Taking Full Accountability

Mentors aren’t there to run your business. You’re the business owner and you make the decisions. Too often, entrepreneurs become over-reliant on advice from their mentors. Your mentors shouldn’t have to give you answers every single step on the way.

Do this instead: An entrepreneur has to forge their own path. You’ll have to make calculated risks. Learn from your own mistakes. And try new things. Your mentor is only there to guide you, not hold your hand.

Coaching vs Mentoring: Which One Is For You?

The business coach vs business mentor debate can leave you wondering which one to choose, but there are advantages to both.

As we mentioned, having a mentor is a valuable asset to have in your business. More importantly, it’s  a meaningful relationship that you can cultivate over a lifetime. 

Business coaches are still incredibly useful, but more situational. Working one-on-one with a business coach can help you quickly learn new skills.

Bottom line: seek a mentor now, and hire a business coach when needed. Both will help you fast-track your business from launch to six-figures.

If you’re still in the beginning stages of launching your business but not sure what products you should sell, check out our free guide to help you choose your first million dollar product.