There are many different reasons that coaches or mentors engage with entrepreneurs, which can range from being paid to provide their services, gaining access to new business ideas, philanthropy, or the sense of prestige that comes along with the role. You may have some experience as a coach or mentor already, or be taking the role on for the first time. So, what exactly does your role entail and what do you plan to achieve from it? – a key part of this will be setting or working towards goals and objectives. A goal is generally defined as the overall outcome intended to be achieved and objectives are the measurable steps or actions that need to be taken to achieve a goal. In coaching and mentoring for entrepreneurs, goals and objectives play an important role both for entrepreneurship programmes and the entrepreneurs.
- For an entrepreneurship programme, the key question is what do you aim to achieve from a cohort of entrepreneurs? Some entrepreneurship programmes such as Y Combinator state their goal is to ‘get you to the point where you’ve built something impressive enough to raise money on a larger scale,’ whereas others such as the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) define themselves as ‘an objectives-based program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies.’ Do you have a clear statement for your programme describing what you aim to achieve from your cohort of entrepreneurs?
- For entrepreneurs, the key question is what do they need to achieve? The practice of coaching would suggest that you help the entrepreneur define their goal and facilitate so they understand how they can achieve that goal. On the other hand, the practice of mentoring would suggest that if you are providing guidance towards what entrepreneurs need to achieve, then setting objectives along the way would help them to do that. This can be seen in the case of the CDL programme, which has mentors rather than coaches. Another example which uses a hybrid approach is the Imperial Enterprise Lab Summer Accelerator programme, which has a coach to help venture teams set monthly goals and provides mentoring to discuss progress and guide the venture teams towards achieving those goals.
So, how should goals be defined and objectives be set? For both entrepreneurship programmes and entrepreneurs, here are some tips for defining goals and setting objectives:
- Co-create – while there may be an overall goal or objective that is pre-defined by a programme such as Y Combinator, interim goals and objectives should be co-created and mutually agreed between the coach or mentor and entrepreneur to ensure they make sense and have buy-in from both parties.
- Be SMART – goals and objectives should have the following ‘SMART’ characteristics and be: specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and time-bound. On a programme where I was a mentor, I saw one entrepreneurial team’s objective change once the SMART characteristics were applied. ‘Get sales’ became ‘build 15 sales leads by 5th March’ and ‘land 4 customers by 5th March.’
- Revisit – entrepreneurs and their ventures are often gaining new information and having to adapt their planned course of action, so goals and objectives should be revisited periodically to ensure they are still appropriate, or adapted.
Now’s a good a time as any to take a few minutes thinking about what you aim to achieve from a cohort of entrepreneurs and / or what do the entrepreneurs you are working with need to achieve? Spend a few minutes on capturing your thoughts and we’d love to hear how you get on. Let us know via the contact form.
Author: Dr Harveen Chugh, August 2021