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Finding the right type of business support

John Nelligan


For many people the last experience of structured learning was either in a class room, night school, company training course or self-taught. As a business owner have you considered what other options there might be?

As a business owner you can choose the type of support you obtain. Assuming you choose not to research the theory and apply it yourself, you can have someone guide you specifically for your business. Many business owners will have heard the terms, coach, mentor, advisor and consultant used. Unfortunately, the terms are often interchanged without regard for what they do. So what is the difference and what do they do? The easiest way to describe them is to take an example. Let’s say you wanted to recruit a new member of staff, who would you like to help you?

  • If it is someone who has experienced recruiting staff and you want to draw on their experiences (good and bad), then you need a mentor.
  • If you would like someone to explain the process and give hits and tips, you need an advisor
  • If you would like someone to make you think about the process by asking you questions, so you are confident you can do it yourself, you need a coach
  • If you want someone to do it for you, then employ a consultant.

For a small business with multiple activities requiring support, a mixture of these will be applicable depending, upon the urgency and your current level of confidence with the activity.

Working with one person maybe a bit daunting for some business owners or they might consider that it will be too costly to have one-on-one support. Another option is join a workshop with a mixed group of people from different industries. A facilitator leads a discussion on common business issues and you gain the benefit of a broad range of experience and skills from the attendees which you can apply to your own situation. Because of the depth of the discussion opportunities arise in workshops which would otherwise be missed and often unexpected business relationships are surfaced.