Six Steps in Choosing a Business Mentor

business mentor
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Like most small business owners, you started your gym because you love helping people. Or, you were tired of working for “the man.” Two amazing reasons to start a business. But reasons don’t pay bills. 

If you were anything like me, you found your real life business skills were lacking. Don’t beat yourself up. I’ve had plenty of conversations with business owners with formal education that still struggle with the realities of running a business. Learning new business skills is a lot like a workout — as you get fitter, you ramp up intensity. In short, it never gets easier. 

Business mentors can be a great way to gain some practical insight into your skills as an entrepreneur. They can also provide a high level of accountability as you seek to improve your business. Here are six steps to take when choosing (or not) a business mentor

1. Wait

Yes. Step One is to pump the freakin’ breaks. You’re feeling the need to hire a business mentor because things aren’t going that great right now. Resist the urge to act impulsively. The best business coach in the world cannot save a business in crisis – unless they have a blank check. Improving a business is a lot like improving a marriage. It’s best done incrementally and in calm, rational moments. 

2.  Block Out the Time 

Look at your schedule and find at least four hours in the week you will dedicate to business improvement. You will likely have hour-long weekly calls with your mentor. But, you’ll also want to allocate the time for “doing the homework.” If you don’t have four hours in your week, it’s not the time for mentorship. 

3.  Feel the Sting

You don’t want the cost of business mentorship to feel like your Netflix subscription. You want it to feel more like your mortgage. In a weird way, business coaches are doing you a favor by charging a premium for their time. You’ll respect the time, do the work and reap the rewards. Look to spend a minimum of 5% of your monthly revenue for three to four months. 

4.  If it Sounds too Good to be True, it Probably Is 

Run away from promises of more members, more leads and the perfect marketing plan. It doesn’t exist. Also, be weary of business coaches who like to bring out their perfect test subjects as testimonials. Plan on your results being “average” and be surprised if they’re exceptional. But, plan your investment around averages, not exceptions. 

5.  Choose a Mentor with Success in a Similar Situation 

I built my gym in the midwest of the United States. Culturally, the midwest is largely inactive and social gatherings revolve around food and drink. Less than 10% of my new members have ever participated in a coached fitness activity. By-and-large, they haven’t broke a sweat since high school sports. On the flip side, I’ve spoken with gym owners in the Bay area who’s primary struggle is competition for members across gyms. Both present unique challenges, but each would have entirely distinct marketing and sales systems.

Additionally, you may find yourself drawn to “celebrity” business coaches. While most provide really solid information, it is important to remember that brand awareness is an important part of marketing. Unless your personal brand is reaching millions, you may want to seek out advice from someone who has a similar follower count to you. 

6. Ask Good Questions 

Now you’re ready to interview your potential business coach. Do some type of consult with three different business coaches to find a good fit. Here are some good questions to ask: 

  • How much time should I allocate weekly to improving my business? 
  • What are the most difficult challenges you’ve experienced in business and how did you overcome them? 
  • Can you provide five client references? 
  • For those five references: 
    • How has your day-to-day changed since you started business coaching? 
    • What problems feel less daunting now you’ve received business coaching? 
    • What challenges did you face going into business coaching? 
    • What is one piece of advice you’d give to a business owner as it relates to business coaching? 

Avoid the standard, “How many new members did you get?” or “What was your ROI?” These things are nearly impossible to quantify. Often times the simple act of starting business coaching will give you the mindfulness to make positive changes.

Do you need business coaching to be successful? Of course not. I believe that it is a lot like therapy or meditation — the simple act of repeated participation is the “fix”, not the actual information delivered. Some of the worst business owners I know have the most formal education. Like therapy and meditation, business coaching can be life-changing if you approach it with consistency and effort. 

Matt Scanlon is the owner and founder of CrossFit Memorial Hill and TheHillKC in Kansas City, Missouri. He is also the co-founder of BUILD — a CrossFit program and research project dedicated to improving health outcomes for cancer survivors.  Matt's professional career began in healthcare management. As a result of this experience, Matt is focused on using CrossFit to improve health metrics for a broad population of people historically underserved in the fitness industry.  Located at the base of the National WWI Memorial, CrossFit Memorial Hill was founded in 2011 as a free community fitness resource. After gaining a following of nearly 1,300 participants in community pop-up WODs, Matt Affiliated in 2012.  In 2016, CrossFit Memorial Hill expanded to incorporate a private coaching business, BUILD, a TRX and bootcamp series, and various other specialty programs under the umbrella of TheHillKC.  Contact him at