What’s the difference between a mentor and a business adviser?

The word ‘mentor’ goes all the way back to Greek mythology (it was the name of young Telemachus’s adviser in Homer’s Odyssey). And just as Shakespeare gave us many words that have percolated their way into everyday speech – including, interestingly, the word ‘manager’ – Homer’s Mentor became an everyday description for a trusted, experienced adviser.

Yet, there are also other labels used to describe someone who gives advice: coach, teacher, instructor, role model and, in a business context, business adviser. Do they mean the same thing?

It’s all about improvement
There are subtle differences between a business adviser and a mentor. For example, the term mentor is often used to mean a more informal role, offering business advice based on experience. Whereas a business adviser may represent a more formal relationship, and a more practical role in the business (such as helping to define strategy).

But, at their heart, both roles are about one thing: continual improvement. Anytime you want to get better at what you do, anytime you want to be your best, a mentor or business adviser can help you get there. Both roles bring a valuable fresh perspective, and provide encouragement to identify and go after new opportunities. And both roles provide guidance you won’t find elsewhere in the business.

Not just for young entrepreneurs
One of the most common misconceptions about business advice and mentorship is that it’s for young, inexperienced business owners who are just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Some of the best-known business leaders of our time, including Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett, credit a mentor or business adviser with helping them achieve success.

After all, everyone needs good advice. Even if you’ve been running your business for 10 years. Even when you run a billion-dollar business. Successful leaders recognise the value of great business advice, whatever label you give it.

Finding the right adviser or mentor for you
At Henchards, we work with business owners under many different labels: business adviser, coach, business consultant, mentor, non-executive director. Regardless of the label, we’ve found that chemistry is key to getting the most out of the relationship.

You’ll probably be spending a lot of one-on-one time with your business adviser or mentor, so finding the right person isn’t just about assessing their experience and perspective – the chemistry has to be spot on. Learn more about the relationship between adviser and business owner in our latest video, or get in touch to see how we might work together.