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  • Writer's pictureDarren Tebbenham

Business coaching versus mentoring and consultation


A business mentor or consultant typically uses their superior experience in business to teach you the way they created the level of success they now have in their life so that you too can have the same. Their worth is based mostly on their prior success and this often shows up in terms of proven formulae or business blueprints to copy and implement to replicate the success their success. You might hear that they wouldn’t ask you to do something they haven’t already done themselves and that if they can earn the money they earn, you can too if you just follow and blueprint.

The trouble with this approach is three-fold:

One, this doesn’t grow the aspiring business owner very much. This is important because the journey to being financially successful, enjoying an impactful and well-run business isn’t easy. It takes hard work, bravery and patience as well as consistency and commitment. There are no short-cuts. It’s in our struggles we find our greatest strength and a mentor as opposed to a coach doesn’t see the journey quite like this. Instead, the journey is about compliance and applying hacks and ready-made systems into your business. The primary role a mentor takes is one of authority. They pre-design the process before you even arrive at the party.

Two, it doesn’t allow the aspiring business owner to express themselves very well. The idea that one’s business is an extension of oneself and an expression of the owner’s values and ideals for others gets lost. In a world where qualifying to become a fitness professional has never been cheaper or easier and at a time where there has never been such a low barrier to getting into business because of social media means the marketplace has never been more flooded with offers and products and marketing that looks all the same. The need to stand out has never been greater. But when you are one of several thousand following the same blueprint and many of the different blueprints are essentially the same, the chance that you will never less. People are tired to being marketed too. Finding your own voice and setting your own stall out has never been more important.

Three, what worked for someone else rarely works for everyone indeed sometimes not for anyone else. You see, the truth is often it was NOT the business system that created the original success in the first place! Usually it was luck and hard work. The blueprint came after. That is after the original success the mentor created the system for others to follow. So, it’s not like the mentor ever actually followed the formula either.

Whilst mentoring and business consultants clearly have their role, a business coach has a very different role to play!


If you consider, for a moment, coaching in a fitness context. Perhaps a 9 stone male client wanting to put on some muscle. You wouldn’t just give your plan to him, would you? Even if you were once much smaller than you are today, you wouldn’t package up your plan and sell it as a done-for-you solution for smaller guys? Equally, if you are currently your ideal weight and haven’t ever had a weight problem, this doesn’t mean you wouldn’t encourage a calorie deficit for your overweight client even though you have never personally done the program you create for them.

Look, a coach doesn’t only offer solution they have personally followed themselves. They are creative and supportive developing new solutions for clients. They seek to find the best fit solution for their clients and know the journey is what matters and that their greatest role is to help them along the path they have chosen to walk.

Sure, a coach should have a solution; their bespoke way of working with people. However, the art is to help the client find their way of implementing the solution. A coach is client centred. They seek to bring out the best in their client, not impose a predetermined blueprint onto their client. A coach enables independent thinking and creativity.

Consider this too.

A coach allows their clients to fall. As opposed to mentoring them to take shortcuts, apply hacks and prevent "risk". A coach encourages this since what it's most important is that their clients pick themselves back up when they do fall, which is inevitable of course.

And so a coach works very differently with their client than a mentor does with theirs. The relationship is collaborative not consultative. Their method is creative not prescriptive. And the outcome is independence not dependence. That is the end goal is to help the business owner create their own blueprint for their own business.

If you can align with this thinking, the experience of a business coach would, therefore, be to establish:

i. Absolute clarity about what they want and how this can be operationalised into a coherent business plan (as opposed to clarity about the pre-existing blueprint and how to implement it)

ii. Clarity around what typically seems to prevent them from being more successful developing a strategy to overcome what seems to otherwise hold them in the current status quo (as opposed to studying the new procedures to implement the new business systems provided)

iii. Focus around the key steps that need taking day by day and ensuring they see them through (coaching accountability versus compliance)

iv. Access to some key resources to assist progress and help manage setbacks and common challenges (as opposed to cheat sheets to help make the formula stick)

v. Confidence in their own ability and personal growth as a business owner (versus certainty about following the system preventing deviation from the protocols provided)

I hope you sense the difference. A business coach should be trained in coaching i.e. how to bring out the best in others and in business (whether through personal experience, formal training or a combination of the two). A good business coach has their system as to how to structure the right support to their clients but principally seeks to develop their client’s ideas and ideals into robust business models and systems for them to excel as leaders in their fields.

I hope you enjoyed this little insight and there is more on

Darren T

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