The Difference Between A Mentor And A Coach For Entrepreneurs

I often get asked the question, what is the difference between a Mentor and a Coach, and whilst most people think it’s the same thing, there is actually a very big difference between the two, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurs need to be careful which to select based on what their requirements are.

Let us first look at the textbook definitions:

Mentor / Mentorship

A Mentor is an experienced, knowledgeable, and trusted adviser.  A Mentor provides guidance and direction based on experience.  A mentor has achieved success within the industry and transfers that knowledge to a mentee.  Mentorship is an ongoing relationship between a mentor and mentee where the mentor is an expert in his/her field.  Mentorship offers practical solutions to issues a mentee is faced with.

Coach / Coaching

A Coach is an individual that has completed a course or qualification in a certain field and registered as a coach.  A coach focuses on partnering with clients in a though provoking and creative process that inspires customers to maximize their potential.  Coaching is a method of achieving set goals.  Coaching offers textbook solutions to issues customers are faced with.

Let us have a look at some basic comparisons between coaches and mentors:





Based on the coaching course/skill they are qualified for.

Based on hands-on experience in the industry they are focused on.


Receive certifications for the skills they will coach.

No certifications required, only practical experience and knowledge.


Few weeks of training.

Upon completing the coaching course, you are a qualified and certified coach.

Years of hands-on experience, successes, and failures.

Only qualification is results on successes.

Business Interests

Coaching is the core business for coaches.

Mentors have their own businesses and offer mentorship on the side.

Track Record

Based on statistics from clients or coaching group they are part of.

Based on statics from clients, as well as their own successes and failures in business.


Majority of income comes from Coaching.

Majority of income comes from their own business interests.


Short-term focused on a specific outcome.

Long-term focused on an overall solution.


Available to meet at set dates and times, offering face-to-face or video conferencing, but not accessible via phone, message, and email for advice (usually additional cost).

Available to meet as required by the mentee, offering face-to-face or video conferencing, and usually accessible by phone, message, and email at any time for advice.


Performance driven, designed to improve the client’s performance.

Focuses on the individual only.

Is more soft-skill focused, such as example NLP, Life Coaching, Communication Skills, Presentation skills, Negotiation skills, etc.

Development driven, taking a more holistic approach to the mentee’s business.

Focuses on the individual and business.

Is more hard-skill focused, such as example business planning, marketing strategy, financial management, turn-around strategies, etc.


Does not share personal life and work experiences, but rather proposes methods to enhance the customer’s understand of their own self.

Shares personal life and work experiences, listens and offers advice, support and guidance, and possibly network contacts.


Engages directly with the client or assigned coaching individual only.

Engages with the client and usually assist with engaging with staff, customers and suppliers as well.


Hands-off approach focused on teaching a specific skill set, offering advise around that skill set.

Hands-on approach focused on understanding the details of the business and offering practical advice and changes.


Traditionally structured following a set programme.

Informally structured focusing on the current issues.


Experts in the set field based on qualifications.

Experts in their industry, across fields, based on experience.


Follows an agenda set by the coach focused on a specific deliverable.

Follows an agenda set by the mentee focus on the issues they are facing at that time.


Coach asks though-provoking questions as their primary tool to inspire the client to come up with an answer.

Mentee asks the questions more so than the mentor, tapping into the mentor’s experience and getting direct answers.


Set, and specific and measurable focused on the specific skill set being coached on.

Variable, changing as the mentee’s goals change, focused on overall deliverables and performance.

So who do I choose?

Well that is a difficult question to answer as its based on your requirements.

If you are looking to improve your negotiations, communication, leadership, or conflict resolution skills, then you should probably be looking at approaching a coach.

If you are looking to increase profits, reduce operational expenses, improve performance, and any other practical advice within your business, you would be better going with a mentor.

What questions should I ask of a Coach or Mentor?

Again, this depends on what your requirements are but here are a few basic questions if you an entrepreneur looking for help within your business:

  • Experience in your current industry?

    It is important that your coach or mentor has experience in your current industry or target market.

  • What success and failures have you had?

    Any coach or mentor that has not experiences both successes and failures (usually more than successes) in business should be a red flag.

  • What successful business are you running now?

    This would be businesses other than the coaching or mentorship business.  This gives you an indication as to if they walk the talk.

  • How many people have you coached/mentored?

    You don’t need details, you just need to know you not in the first handful, and if you are, you need to be happy with that.  Everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves.

  • What type of businesses do you have as customers/mentees?

    You really want to know that if you are an eCommerce business, that the coach or mentor has dealt with other eCommerce businesses.

  • What kind of successes have they achieved?

    Any coach or mentor that promises you 500% growth in 3 months should be a red flag.  Success is built over time and there is no such thing as fast-tracked success.

  • Can you help me with my current problem or goal?

    You need to be open with your problem and ask the coach or mentor if they can help with that specific issue or goal.

  • Do you offer a hands-on approach?

    Depending on your needs, you might want a hands-on approach or you might simply want to learn a skill.  You need to decide.

  • How would the coaching/mentorship work?

    You need to understand how the agenda would be structured, how often you going to need sessions, whether the coach or mentor will be available by phone or messages when there is an issue, etc, etc.  Again this related to you requirements.

  • What does this cost?

    Whether you are doing coaching or mentorship, it is no cheap, but it also is not an expenses.  It is an investment.  Pricing can range anything from $200 – $3000 a session depending on who you are speaking to, their experience, your requirements, and a host of other factors.  Make sure you understand the costing and if there are any additional costs (like phone calls, resources, etc) that you might be billed for.

Which would I prefer?

This is a personal preference, and you would need to understand that as an entrepreneur over 25 years that I have tried both coaches and mentors.  I even admittingly qualified as a life and business coach years ago.

However, when it came to my own businesses and I needed help, none of the coaches I approached could provide me the hands-on practical advice that I got from the mentors I hired.  I wanted someone to hold my hand and show me how to do things and warn me of risks.  Someone to bounce ideas off and that would not coddle me but hold me accountable and push me to my limits and exceed them.

Yes my coaches taught me many skills from negotiation, communication, presentation skills, NLP, sales techniques, etc, etc and each were very valuable skills to learn, however when it came to writing a business plan, or creating financial forecasts and understanding financials, cutting costs and managing taxes, streamlining production, managing and scaling my businesses, and bringing in customers, all that advice came from mentors.

I wanted to learn and get advise from people that were more successful than me, that had been there and done that, that could guide me through the pitfalls, etc.  For this I got mentors.  To me that was invaluable and probably the best investment in my life.

Now not everything I learn came from mentors and coaches, a major amount was from books, courses, conferences and simple doing it, failing, and learning, and each entrepreneur should not solely rely on their coach or mentor to further educate themselves.


At the end of the day this is a personal preference and based on what you want to achieve in your business or life.

Both coaches and mentors are valuable assets to have by your side, but you need to decide which is more likely to meet your needs and lead you to success based on your need.  If you need both, then get both.  It really dependent on that you want and your goals.


It is important to note that this is written in the context of an entrepreneur seeking a coach or mentor, and not as a business looking for a coach or mentor for their staff.

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