Working with a mentor /coach

I was at a networking event yesterday, mostly consisting of sole traders or ‘one-person-bands’. The person I was speaking to over a coffee and a croissant was saying that they came to the event regularly just to get to speak to someone. It led me to think about how hard it can be to find someone to discuss ideas and feelings about the business when you work on your own.

We can so easily get stuck in the trees and forget to take a step back and see the wood. When the daily pressures of running the business, dealing with customers, seeing to the routine tasks that must happen, it is easy to forget the bigger picture.


In the day-to-day, here are some questions we forget to ask:


“What could I be doing smarter?”


“What am I missing in my thinking that would give me a new opportunity?”

“Where might new ideas and new ways of working come from?”


When did you last have a review conversation with a sympathetic, yet impartial mentor? What issues are you feeling a little stuck with, that a well-directed chat with a trusted advisor might move on?


An hour every month with a coach /mentor could transform your mental state, enable you to feel less alone and give you some new ideas.


Think about it.

Stress as a small business owner

Having run a small business, both as a partner with a team, and as a sole trader, I have tasted firsthand the stresses and anxieties that doing so brings about. You have to do everything, especially at the beginning, and later when you have a few people working in your business, the stresses as well as the satisfactions seem to get more intense, rather than lessen.

You have to train colleagues in the ways you want the work done, in the relationship- building with clients, then there’s performance management, time management (theirs as well as yours), the inevitable fall-outs that occur between staff members in a small team where there’s often nowhere to hide and a big impact on the workplace atmosphere. It’s more like a family than anything else, with both the close-knit feel and the tensions that happen in families.

As the person fully responsible for a small business, it can feel a heavy burden. I remember how that felt it in my 20s and 30s, and back then didn’t know any better as to how to deal with it more effectively. So, my working week often ran to 12 hour days, with few holidays, not enough quality time for my home life and so on. I’d be doing my own work, watching the work of everyone else, running all the timelines and projects, meeting the clients, doing the accounts and generating new business to keep everyone in their job.

In later years, I began to realise how unsustainable that was. Or at least, yes I could carry on, but the cost became rather high. If I had my time again, and knowing what I do now, I might have learned to work ‘smarter’, to invest some of the meagre profits in some basic training both for myself - for example in delegation skills, in having better performance conversations that motivate the colleague rather than depressing them, in saying ‘no’ and managing clients’ expectations better, in communication skills that actually worked.

Well, if this is you now, think about what you might do different. Ask yourself these five coaching questions, and give yourself time to let the honest answers come to you:

What do I want my work life to be like? 

How is it right now, and how do I feel?

What could I change right now that would enable me to work ‘smarter?' 

What skill gap have I got that, if I paid attention to it, might reduce the stresses a little, and amplify the benefits?’

What might the consequences be for my life, for the business and for my team if I keep on “firefighting”, working and living out of a stressed state?

Think about it.

© paul crummay 2018