by | Nov 2, 2020 | Business Building Musts, Small Business Help

This past year has had many of us thinking differently about our work, about our roles in this world and about the impact we could or would like to have.

Perhaps you’ve been an employee all your life, maybe in leadership or management roles or whatever role you’ve been happy in, but this last year has you thinking differently about that space you occupy in your working life.

Perhaps you already have a small business that you own and thoughts of growing or pivoting have been percolating inside your never ending entrepreneurial brain.

Whatever your situation, there’s a chance you’ve been online and looking for free or paid help to get you where you want to be.

If there’s one thing I 100% know in business, it is this:

You need to surround yourself with people who have been travelled the path before you – whether they are 100 steps in front of you or just a couple – it’s what you need to be successful in business.

But there’s lots and lots of coaches and mentors out there – I should know, I’m one of them!

And I can tell you that we are not all created equal.  And not every one of them is suitable to you now – they might be in the future, but not where you are now.

Some of them WILL NEVER be suitable – they either just aren’t your “people”, or they just aren’t good at what they do.

Some coaches have certificates, some coaches took a course, or they read a book, and some are coaches because they know what you need to know because they’ve done what you need to do.

Is one right or wrong for you?

While I can’t answer what may be the best option for you, I will say that I’d rather be coached by someone who’s done what I’ve trying to do, and not just read the theory – but that’s just me and my circumstances.

Which is why I am doing this blog post!

If you’re thinking of starting a business or pivoting or growing your business, then I really really really want you to think about these suggestions on how to choose who might be right to coach you along this path.

1. What are your challenges in your business? Why do you want a mentor or coach to start with?

You could have many mentors during your business journey.  Just like your customers or clients look to you, you need to know what problem you want sorted and what the challenges in your business are.

If your challenges are with marketing, then there is no use going to a mentor or following a mentor on social media who specialises in finance. Because while they might be amazeballs at finance, finance isn’t your challenge – marketing is!

And it’s true, you will outgrow your mentors.  Paid or unpaid. I have certainly outgrown many mentors in my business journey.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” – that is an old proverb, but so very true.

Some mentors I have had are still servicing clients where I was – which is 100% totally fine.  But I’m not there anymore – I’m here, so I need to move on.

So, work out your challenges now, seek out the person who can help you and don’t be afraid to acknowledge when and if that relationship has reached it’s potential, thank them and move on!

You’ll grow as your business grows, and your needs will grow with it.

2. Who has the same core values as you?

I think it was Simon Sinek who said “people do business with people who have the same values as them” – I had that very sign on my wall for many many years.

It’s a more formal way of saying, we do business with people we like – the majority of the time anyway!

So, there’s two steps with this, what are your core business values?  If you don’t know them, then that’s definitely something to work on.

And what’s is the potential coach/mentor’s core values?

If you don’t know what your mentor or coaches core values are, if they aren’t out in the world for everyone to see, I’d say move on.  That could be harsh, absolutely, but for me it’s non-negotiable.

Morals and values are something I hold pretty high on my “be in my world list”.  Perhaps they are high for you too?

You don’t have to be best friends with your coach or mentor, in fact, I’d say, don’t blur the lines, but you do have to like the person and respect their expertise in a way you know will help you move your business forward.

3. Who seems authentic and is an open book?

Authenticity is something that’s bantered around a lot.  Be authentic we are told, be you, be an open book.

A coach or mentor should be an open book – at least as far as business goes.

Their personal life is their personal life – and not sharing that or just sharing bits, doesn’t make them un-authentic.

But an open book, again, they should be.  If your coach or mentor, paid or unpaid, isn’t willing to show the ups and downs of their journey in business, share their misfortunes and mistakes for the benefit of you not making the same ones but presents a perfect curated business and life – then again, RUN!

And if ups and downs seem too curated, keep running!

Being authentic as a coach or mentor is about ensuring that their clients or listeners or followers don’t make the same mistakes they did. That they can fast track your business journey, by showing you the way.

Think of a windy road that you could travel yourself or a straight point a to point b highway you take with a mentor – it’s easier, it’s safer and it’s quicker (and let’s be honest, has to be more profitable too!)

4. Who has a different but complimentary perspective to you?

Don’t just choose a mentor or a coach because they are in retail just like you or that they are in a service based business just like you.

Different can be good.

My mentor I had when I was a retailer, didn’t have hardly any retail clients.  There was just a small handful.  But I knew that he knew what I needed to know to be successful!

The fact that he hated shopping wasn’t a barrier.

He was a marketing coach; I wasn’t going to him to learn about importing or product development – just marketing.

It was a fabulous fit until I outgrew him and the services that he offered.

But that’s what good coaches do – set their students free, when they’ve learnt all they can learn.

So, different can be good, and I’d refer you to back to number 1 – what’s the challenge you have and why do you want a coach or mentor in the first place.

5. What are your goals and aspirations – the BIG PICTURE stuff?

Know this before following someone or before investing in someone or something.

I have started all my businesses with the end in mind.  I know what my end goal is.  It doesn’t really change that much – just the path to it might take a detour or two!

I even started with the end in mind, before I knew what that meant.  I remember my mentor talking about this and thinking “heck, I’ve done that, yay me, didn’t know it was a thing”.

But it is a “thing” and a huge thing.

If you don’t know which road to take, any road will do.

That’s one of my favourite sayings, so if you don’t know the destination, then choosing the road to get there will be incredibly hard.

Have a vision board.  Have your goals, 3 month, 6 month, 12 month and even 5 year goals front and centre of your daily workstation.

Your mentor or coach will be able to help you reach those goals so much quicker if you know that they are to share with them, especially if you’re paying a mentor or coach!

Remember they don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be FREE.

Unless you’re perfect, and I hate to burst your bubble, but you’re not, then don’t expect your coach or mentor to be perfect either.  You are being unrealistic with that expectation straight up.

There’s nothing wrong with a mentor or a coach to say, “This is my experience, but for you, I’m not sure, let me do some research on that”.

I did a social media workshop inside a private Facebook group just the recently and one of the questions was on Pinterest.

I pay someone to do my Pinterest – so it’s not my area of expertise – I know how it works and why you’d have Pinterest as your strategy, but I said honestly, “Let me ask Kate – she’s my Pinterest guru – I’ll get back to you.”

As a coach and mentor, I also surround myself with amazing people with amazing skills and I call on them when I need – like all good community people do!

And mentors don’t have to be FREE. But they certainly can be! Unless of course, you want tailored, personal situations, then really research so you know you are paying your hard earned money to someone who is actually going to be of benefit to you and your business!

There are plenty of amazing people out there to look up to, to follow, to implement their strategies and advice, to undertake their challenges, listen to their podcasts etc.

Everyone has mentors they’ll never meet – in fact, they say you should never meet your mentor – it’s wrecks the magic!

But I will say, hand on heart, you need to get yourself a business mentor.  Paid or unpaid. Famous and fabulous or local and low-key – doesn’t matter – but you 100% need to have one – that I know for sure.

So, if you don’t have one – go through these questions again and start thinking who you need in your life to help succeed quicker and frankly, simply your business.

Do you currently have someone you look to for mentoring or coaching? What aspect of your business are you accessing their knowledge for? Leave me a comment, I would love to find out more!

Or jump over and join in some conversation on my Like Minded Business Owners facebook group – it’s a rapidly growing hub for all things that small business owners might be looking to find and discuss with others!


Jenn Donovan is a marketing strategist and social media extraordinaire, coach and mentor to savvy business owners.  Owner and Founder of Social Media & Marketing Australia.

With a passion for making business simple, because it’s isn’t easy but it should be simple or at least simpler, she’s built a reputation for helping other small business owners simplify their marketing and businesses so they can reach their goals, be more profitable and live the dream (finding the freedom they set out to achieve when they started … the illusive small business owner freedom dream …!)

Jenn believes in giving before asking and that’s why she’s the host of the popular Small Business Made Simple Podcast


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Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

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