Sifting through business coaches and mentors is tough - What skills/traits/experience/personality type do I need to look out for in a coach that is willing to take me under their wing pro bono?
Not to commercialize this, but CoFoundersLab just launched the Advisors Network with "AI Genius" Technology. You can go to the link below and input your information. The AI Genius will match you with perfectly aligned advisors. It's FREE to see who your matched advisors are and many of the advisors on the platform are doing intro sessions FREE as well. Some amazing curated advisors on the platform. https://advisors.cofounderslab.com/profile/create
I have been mentoring couple of start-ups for the last 2/3 years and some of my biggest learning on both sides are:
a. Understanding of the space you are in: Usually B-2-B is the most difficult space considering that it is a specialised area of work. Hence if the mentor is from that space, he would have deeper insights. The B-2-C is more wide open.
b. Mentor, at some points need to have experience a ''start-up' environment in their careers. Working with Corporates etc have limited pressure on resources. Managing that for a start-up is the most difficult aspect.
c. Personality alignment is essential. Both need to be listen to each other.
d. Mutual respect for the work they doing, adds flavours.
a. Faith: Founders need to have faith in the path recommended by the Mentor; else why have them? A mentor ability to understand 'risk' is higher
b. Founders tend to run around 'trends' other founder are running behind. Once you build your strategy, stick by it.
c. Ability to listen: As much as the Mentor needs to have the ability to listen, so do the Founders.
Hope this base match-making is useful .
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It's the "for free" part that is the challenge in your request. What's in it for them if not some compensation? That said, aside from the resources @Steve mentioned here within the CFL platform, there is an organization here in the US called SCORE, which is the something-something-something of retired executives, a coaching organization sponsored by the Small Business Administration of the government, encouraging retired business execs to pass along the benefit of their work experience. It's no cost. There may be something similar in the UK through your own ministry for business, or you could ask SCORE if they know who might be willing to have a similar arrangement across the pond.
Most executive support professionals, including myself, like to get paid for their useful advice. It takes a particular class of individual that's not offering their advice for compensation. My free advice comes out here on CFL, daily. But that's not a 1:1 coaching relationship, it's public in the discussion forums, and that may not be where you want to talk about your issues.
Here's the basics of what to consider when looking for executive support. There are six fundamental business skills. No one ever masters more than two. You and everyone else will always need support from employees, advisors, consultants, or someone else to fill in those skill gaps. There are other skills besides these six, but every business needs the core set of marketing, sales, organization, efficiency, people, and leadership. You can improve in more than two areas, but you won't master more than two.
Personality, that's a toss-up. What motivates you? Look for that. Experience, it helps to have someone who at least knows your industry, but there are a lot of things to learn that are industry neutral too.
Hopefully that's a good start for you.