8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Behind mostly every successful entrepreneur is at least one supportive figure in the form of a coach or mentor who pushed that entrepreneur to their limits, and encouraged them to embrace their strengths that eventually led to success.
I know this, firsthand, because prior to launching my firm ZTPR in 2014, I was an on-air radio host, and also worked for an agency called Lexicon. It was at Lexicon where I found solace in my first mentor, Steve Rohr; he showed me the ins and outs of the PR business over a few years. While many of the lessons over those years helped shape my successful career as a publicist at my own firm, one of the most valuable takeaways Rohr imparted on me was the ongoing learning process as the key to success as a publicist—which I think can be applied to any career.
So what exactly is a coach? According to one of the top business strategists in the U.S., Tony Robbins, a coach, is, “Someone [who is] professionally trained to help you maximize your full potential and reach your desired results.” He continues to define a coach, “like a supportive friend and a trusted adviser rolled into one. They’re someone who will push you to identify your goals, hold you accountable and provide encouragement throughout your journey to become a better version of yourself.”
Per Robbins’ definition, one can recognize that investing in a coach isn’t a short-term project, it’s not a one-and-done hour session. It’s a proactive, ongoing relationship that encourages you to be your best. This is particularly important and applicable for entrepreneurs, as Jack Murphy, an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur, describes, “Entrepreneurship can be lonely, tiring and confusing but when you’re accountable to somebody else, their consistent follow-up will bring mental clarity and create consistency.”
Ellie Shefi, one of America’s top life and impact coaches, adds that working with a coach allows you to learn from the experiences of others who have done what you seek to do. Shefi says, “Learning from others about what works and what doesn’t, allows you to go further, faster, with clarity and ease, while avoiding costly mistakes.” Shefi also reminds that “success takes a village and no one does it alone,” citing that every championship team has a coach, and CEOs and presidents have a team of trusted advisors. “Surround yourself with mentors, coaches, and advisors and you’ll harness the power of their diverse range of knowledge, perspective, and experience, which can help you eliminate, delegate, innovate, accelerate, and dominate.”
Shefi’s compelling explanation as to why we should surround ourselves with mentors is no secret; the best entrepreneurs know that surrounding themselves with other like-minded, and successful, individuals stems greater results. It’s something industry professionals accepted decades ago, with the most recent telling survey in 2018 by Kabbage Inc., where 92 percent of small business owners said they relied on mentors for “vital success” as reported on Small Business Trends.
There is a myriad of reasons for this, including the ones already listed by Robbins, Murphy and Shefi, but Maya Comerota, an intuitive guide who has worked alongside top coaches, highlights another benefit to mentors. “A coach and mentor can shine light on the blind spots and also support those that they are coaching to turn decades of learning into days.” We all have our blind spots, and can obstruct our own progress sometimes, so someone who already knows what to look for, who maybe traveled a similar path, can lighten those dark spots before they become time-wasting hurdles.
To revert back to Robbins definition and to my experience with coaching, it’s important to reiterate that in order to continue to grow, coaching is a long-term relationship. Top fitness coach, Rebecca Louise, says, “No matter what level you are at, there is always more to learn and when you remain a student and seek new information, you will continue to grow.” This is why the best coaches, themselves, have coaches. Shefi explains, “I always ask anyone that I work with what they are currently learning and who is coaching them. An exceptional coach knows that they need coaching support as well.” Personally, I still find new things to learn about from each of my clients at ZTPR, as every client and PR account is a different experience and my clients are the experts in their fields. So in order to be coached, you need to be willing to invest in not only the time it takes to learn from them but also the long-term commitment to yourself as a listener and ever-evolving student.
With this said, however, in order to measure the success of your experience with a coach or mentor, you should be experiencing some type of quantitative growth; you need to be aware of this, because if you aren’t experiencing growth, you could be working with a coach who may be at the top of their game, but isn’t a fit for your individual pursuits—truthfully, a waste of time for every party involved. To ensure you find the right coach, entrepreneur Maya Comerota advises: “Find a coach or mentor who walks the walk. Ensure that their words and their actions are congruent. Listen with your eyes… hear beyond the words that they say. Are they living in alignment with what they espouse?”
In addition to the coach’s alignment with your desired specialty, you need to be aligned with your coach. Joi Mebane, one of the top beauty coaches in America, emphasizes, “You need to search for a mentor or coach whose teaching style matches your learning style.” Be sure you’re familiar with your learning style, whether that’s visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical as well as, social or solitary. The more attuned you are to how you learn will translate to realized results.
Murphy adds, “Look for somebody who has already had big accomplishments and is looking to give back to the world, rather than somebody who has a full-time career being an overpaid coach and has never accomplished anything remotely similar to what you’re trying to achieve.” There are a lot of hustlers, per se, out there looking to scam you, cautions Mark Cuban, who says, “there are people telling you, ‘I’m going to make you rich’ and ‘I’ve got the solution’ and ‘I’ve got the answer,’ when they have never really done it themselves!”
If you don’t know how to find a coach or who to turn to, Louise suggests asking yourself who you look up to, who you want to be like and do they have integrity? This is a starting point for the type of mentor or coach you’re manifesting. If you’re racking your brain and can’t seem to pinpoint a role model or some type of higher figurer, or if searches are coming up empty, Murphy reminds you, “Don’t force it, if you can’t find the right fit, sometimes finding the perfect coach or mentor will come naturally without much searching.”
The key takeaway is that when you find a mentor, put time, money and energy into that relationship for the long run. A coach, or coaches, will motivate you through the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship, push your limits, and help noticeably grow your business so that in return you’ll notice the value of their contributions—and once you’re there, maybe it’s time for you to become a coach yourself. Murphy concludes, “Never be afraid to provide value to others. Building your network and knowledge happens much faster when you’re willing to give value to other entrepreneurs while also absorbing as much knowledge as you possibly can from them.”
As the President of a PR firm, I couldn’t agree more with Murphy’s instruction. I continue to mentor my staff and advise clients to encourage them to move forward with their personal goals as well as in their professional development so they, too, can one day give back. As someone who worked my way up the ranks, I know how critical it is to have that mentor to look up to and I find value in giving back, because I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance from my mentors. I believe it all comes full circle as my clients also mentor me, by teaching me new things about their industries that I am not as well versed in; mentorship is a perpetual circle and a continuous learning process—of which to truly reap the rewards, you must remain open-minded to continue forward in your path of success.