In this third part of our blog post series on How to find a creative business mentor I talk about the questions to ask your prospective business mentor, adviser or coach, so that you can find the right person to work with for YOU.
In part one of this blog series we looked at how to find a creative business mentor. In part two we looked at three different ways to find and approach a creative business mentor. And now it’s time to find out what questions to ask your prospective business mentor, adviser or coach.
After you have exactly identified what business advice or help you need (see part one of our series), and you have done your research and got referrals or introductions to a couple of creative business mentors, advisers, coaches or experts it’s time to get in touch directly and find out a bit more about them.
Firstly check out their website and possibly their Linked In profile too (especially the recommendations might make for interesting reading and insights). This quick desk research might already give you some answers to the questions below.
Secondly get in touch with them by email or phone, and explain in some detail who you are and what you are looking for (see part one).
12 Questions to ask your prospective business mentor, adviser or coach:
What’s your specialism? And who do you work with? Do they work with a specific group of people (e.g. graduates, women, high growth businesses, jewellers only) or in a specific area (e.g. high growth, getting ready to export, starting to grow, marketing)?
Who have you worked with in the past? Although they are unlikely to share client details due to confidentiality they can give you some examples of the type of clients they have worked with in the past. Don’t hesitate to ask them what their typical client’s challenges or issues are, the specific outcomes, and the impact their work as a creative business mentor, adviser or coach had.
What are the ‘typical’ questions, issues or challenges that your clients face? Are they around developing technical or managerial skills (hence you are looking for a consultant or adviser – see part 1 of this blog series), or more around implementation and making things happen or emotional barriers (including growing your business, reaching the next level, confidence and overcoming procrastination) or a combination of both? Can they share stories about the impact their work made with some of their clients?
How do they ‘normally’ work? Do they work individually or in groups? Is there a certain process they follow of intake, setting goals and planning a coaching programme or series of advice sessions? Do they see you face-to-face and arrange meetings in your workspace or meet in a more neutral location? Do (some) sessions take place on the phone or skype? How long does each session take? How often would they expect to meet and what is the period in between sessions? Is there ‘homework’ between sessions? How much time input is expected from you in total (coaching and the work/exercises involved)? Is there contact in between sessions via email or phone? What is their role and what are their responsibilities, and what are yours? Can they explain clearly why they have chosen to work in this format?
What’s the expected time frame? How long do they expect to work with somebody like you? How would success being measured or the outcome or results demonstrated? When would a programme be successfully finished?
How long have you been a creative business mentor, adviser, or coach? Length of time in itself doesn’t necessarily mean a lot, as it often depends on how many clients they have actually worked with and for how long, and if they work on a fulltime or part-time basis. It might be interesting to find out also about their career before they became a mentor, adviser or coach, and ask them why they changed career path.
Have you got any accreditation? Anybody can call themselves a business mentor, adviser or coach so finding out a little more about their accreditation and general credibility isn’t a bad thing, although again experience (in your field) is often more important than diploma’s. Different teaching and accreditation bodies in coaching and business advice have different approaches, and you might find it useful to find out more about their approach on the accreditation or teaching organisation’s website. What else gives them credibility? Are they associated with certain universities or professional development organisations? Have they done any research, written any books or spoken at conferences or major events?
Is it possible to have a trial session or trial period? Some coaches might provide a short session for free so you can experience personally how they work and the potential impact it has.
What if things don’t work out? What if you aren’t happy with your progress or want to stop earlier? How would you both review your progress over time? Is there a cancellation procedure? What are the terms & conditions – on both sides? Is there a contract in place?
What if things change? What if you improve and create a highly successful business and want to continue working with your adviser, mentor or coach, but the goals are different or the challenges have shifted?
What are your fees and how and when would they need to be paid?
How do we get started? Is there a formal intake procedure? Is there a waiting list? What’s next and what do they need to know from you?
These 12 questions are a good introduction to get to know your prospective mentor, adviser or coach in more detail, so that you can make a better choice in what will work for you. It might be that you need more than one professional to work with you, especially if you have both technical, creative and productivity challenges at the same time.
And then there is one additional question ….
which isn’t as much to ask them but to ask yourself:
Is there a ‘click’ or good fit?
Getting the right business advice, support or coaching is a very personal decision, and you need to be able to discuss private challenges with your adviser. You need to be able to trust them and be able to get vulnerable, so make sure that you feel this connection with them.
In the 4th and final session in this blog series on How to find a creative business mentor, adviser or coach I will identify The Design Trust’s favourite creative business advisers & coaches. All will be revealed in early April.