I need help with my business but who can I ask?
Consultant, Coach, Mentor, Adviser or NED?
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are or how long you’ve been in business, you can’t know everything. Sometimes, you just need a bit of help or simply pointing in the right direction.
Who can I turn to?
Ideally, what you need is someone experienced with a fresh pair of eyes and another perspective looking at the problem with you. Even better if they’ve seen it before and can show you how to deal with it.
Who do I choose?
Persevere with a Google search and you’ll find that there is help out there in the form of consultants, coaches, mentors, advisers and NEDs (Non-Executive Directors).
The titles may be something you aren’t overly familiar with and can leave you feeling overwhelmed, wondering what these people do, how they do it and which will be best for you at this particular time?
In this article, we will go through some of the different options of people you can approach when you need a bit of help.
Consultants are ideal for specialist, individual projects that you have neither the knowledge nor time to complete yourself.
- Experienced, senior professionals who understand your business and your problem and offer a solution.
This solution will be delivered in an agreed timescale for an agreed price.
- Work closely with you and your staff on a project basis.
They work with you for as long as it takes to complete the specific project.
The stereotype of consultants giving the impression that they know it all, charging you for a glossy report with little or no fresh content and telling you how to run your business is largely false, so don’t be afraid to approach a good consultant for help.
Coaches are used to help you to become better prepared to address your problem yourself.
- Allow you to see your business from a different perspective, explore your thought processes and enable you to find alternative ways to do things.
- Provide you with the confidence and mindset to face your business concerns.
- Work with you for any length of time.
Coaching relationships are usually for short periods but can last for years when necessary.
Find a coach you can relate to, confide in and trust.
Mentors are suitable for MDs or business owners who need somebody to share their experience with you and act as sounding boards for your ideas.
- Usually have had careers at a senior level in the public, private or 3rd sectors.
Have experience of business management, facing and overcoming problems similar to yours.
- Offer experienced guidance and advice for your ideas and plans.
- Are often from a different business sector to you, offering a different perspective.
If your problem is sector-specific or covered by specific constraints and regulations, you may need a mentor with similar business experience to you.
- Mentoring relationships usually last between 3 and 12 months, depending on individual circumstances.
Currently, a large portion of the UK is well covered by various business mentoring schemes which endeavour to match clients with mentors who have the appropriate experience. Often, these schemes are partially or even fully funded so make sure you check these out!
Board Advisers are perfect for longer-term guidance on business growth and business issues.
- Independent Board Advisers who sit on your Board – even if the Board only consists of you and them.
- Extremely experienced with a range of business skills and an appreciation of good governance principles, financial propriety and risk management.
- Many work as part of a consortium (similar to ours at Ampios).
This means they have immediate access to the expertise of others in addition to their own.
- Ask considered questions, test your reasoning and thought processes – helping you to take your business where you would like it to go.
- Bring a fresh perspective to the Board.
Won’t be influenced by “How we normally do it”.
- Do not have management responsibilities for your business.
They are responsible along with the Board to hold management to account.
- Not directors and are not registered as such with Companies House.
- Self-employed and paid on an invoice or retainer basis.
It is usual to agree renewable, 12-monthly contracts with them.
Non-Executive Directors (NEDs)
NEDs are appropriate for adding credibility to your business or due to the requirements of your Articles or Objects.
- Independent Board Advisers, performing the same function as advisers.
- Registered as Directors of your business with Companies House.
- Paid as Directors i.e. employees as opposed to the self-employed contractor status of a Board Adviser.
- The number of NEDs you need on your board varies.
This depends upon your Articles (or Objects, if you are a charity).
- Have a vast network of useful contacts.
They will be willing to share these with you if needed. If they haven’t experienced your problem themself, they will know someone who has.
- Work with you for a fixed time, usually 3 years.
Which is right for me?
All of the above professionals come with their advantages and potential problems. Hopefully, knowing the nature of your problem and the needs of your company will assist you in choosing the best help for you.
Be aware that all of these groups have people who are more experienced or qualified than others. So you must conduct research and find someone who can demonstrate that they have the skills, knowledge and practical experience to help you. But the help is out there and you are not on your own.
We can make finding the right help for you simple.
At Ampios, all members of our team are Board Advisers and all have previously worked as Consultants. Most of us are NEDs. Many of us are also Mentors and we have some excellent Executive Coaches in our ranks.
Together, we’ve seen it all and done it all. So, if you are searching for help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Martyn Jones, NED, Board Adviser and Mentor