Despite the term sounding like a drunk aunt at a family gathering, a critical friend can actually be a huge asset to entrepreneurs and SMEs—now, more than ever. A critical friend won’t rubbish your choice of shoes or suggest your top clashes with your bottoms…in business, it simply means a professional who can assess your progress in relation to your goals—someone who can offer helpful suggestions from a position of experience and objectivity.

That last word is important: objectivity. The ability to see what’s good for the business, rather than simply what’s good for the person or people driving it. Some people may be happy to chug along within their comfort zone, but this doesn’t produce fertile ground for business growth. If you want to change your enterprise’s prospects, you may have to try new ideas, to infiltrate new audiences, to diversify your offering, to streamline your operations, to take a new direction. This process is so much easier with a critical friend to call on, one that can not only help and advise you as you attempt new things, but one that is also that gentle nudge you need to actually do them.

The number of times I’ve heard people in my network complain that they attend various workshops, seminars and training days, yet their business doesn’t move a smidgeon. Knowledge isn’t the only thing you need; the motivation and the headspace to apply what you’ve learned is often forgotten and perpetually underrated.

A critical friend may not tell you what you are hoping or expecting to hear. This is where they differ from the friends and family you have around you—who, whilst they may have good ideas, may not point out where you’re going wrong, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. That’s not to say a critical friend will be so obtusely brutal that you’re left reeling for days from their comments, however. Feedback will only be constructive and empowering if you’re open to building on your progress. Both you, as the business’s owner, and your critical friend, want the same thing—for you to succeed. And it’s much, much more likely that you will apply any feedback and advice if you’re paying for the support. Finally, an easy way to move your business forward!

A business mentor like myself has worked with a wide range of businesses, that have all been at different stages of growth, and whose owners have required varying levels of support. Your mentor doesn’t need to know the absolute specifics of what you offer—after all, you’re the specialist in that department. The fundamentals of growth tend to follow the same upward trajectory and they’re predominantly based on the same principles, regardless of the sector or type of product/service offered.

A business mentor is also in the enviable position that they have seen what works (and what doesn’t) in a number of businesses and can pass this information on for the benefit of their other clients (with confidentiality and GDPR fully observed, of course).

A business mentor is the perfect sounding board. Maybe you’ve had a few thoughts on new income streams or ways to improve your business…it’s wise to talk it over with your loved ones, but they will probably just trust you to make the right decision. You may have a relative/friend who’s a business owner who knows what they would do if they were in your position, but they may be too influential…it’s a fine balance. A mentor will take into consideration your time constraints and capabilities with the work that’s needed to move the business along. That they’re distanced from you helps them to see all the different elements in one go, without any bias or preconceived ideas.

I love helping business owners who are seemingly ‘stuck’. Most of the time, they’re standing in their own way, and they just need the right guidance and support to tease them out of their stasis. I work with people on an ongoing basis, as Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will typically take a number of tasks—a consecutive series, where one unlocks the next—to successfully go from A to B.

In today’s climate, diversifying is a wise move. It may not even be a choice, if your material charges and running costs have gone through the roof in recent months. Don’t bury your head in the sand—let me help you sail through the current crisis into calmer waters and towards greater profits.

Why not have a