Do you need a mentor or a coach?

by | Sep 25, 2018 | Hustle and Fire

Mentors are the hot shit in the startup world. Our accelerator programs are full of mentors. As an accelerator director, I actually love the chaos and confusion of mentor matching days when founders meet with dozens of mentors in a single day, giving their elevator pitch and tackling the hard questions the mentors ask.

Mentors are experts, experienced operators in business. They’ve seen a lot and bring a lot of wisdom to the table.

But they aren’t coaches.

Coaches bring expertise too, but in a different way. Rather than, “Here is what has worked for me in the past”, coaches ask “what do you need right now to be successful today?”. They focus on the founder, not their own experience. They ask questions. They understand that developing your business is as much about developing a business model as in developing your skillsets as a founder in order to tackle the hard problems ahead.

I like to use the imagery of champion figure skaters for this. Previously successful, gold-medal winning figure skaters can meet a current athlete for coffee and share tips and advice on how to improve, how to prepare for competition, who to talk to for help. Super valuable and important to a newer athlete.

But the coach is who really helps the athlete win the medal. It’s the day in and day out, working side by side with the athlete. It’s recognizing when and how to push them harder and when to reach out and give them a hug.

Startup venture building is intense, and no founder should try to do it alone (or even with just a co-founder). As you look around your support network, do you need a mentor or a coach?

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

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