• Dave Lindahl, CEO, RE Mentor

    I have used Bob Norton as a CEO coach and consultant to implement his AirTight Management systems. Bob is one of the few people nationally I found who actually has "Been there and done that," growing multiple companies to over $100M in sales. In just six weeks, we were able to implement the first three systems of AirTight Management. They have moved our company to a new level of professionalism that will allow us to continue our rapid growth and succeed at a whole new level.

  • Craig Brenner, CEO, NEDS

    I was skeptical regarding the value I might get from attending. I went and was extremely happy with the higher-level strategy information and its application to my business. Following my "2nd" time attending, I became a coaching client too. I gained insights, perspectives and a ton of value. I recommend it highly and with confidence.

  • Paul T., CEO, iFive Alliances

    What I like the most is that it is real. There is no fluff. One example is using Competitive Landscape Maps. You explain the purpose and process of using the tools, and then you apply it, and people learn real things about their business.

  • John Edmond, President, Angel Data Networks

    I thought this seminar was appropriate for any senior-level executive who wants to get on the same page strategically with their team and boost their business. I feel I greatly underpaid for the value delivered.


 How to Spot a Good Business Mentor

Or Coach

And other advice on Coaches versus Mentors versus Consultants

According to a MarketData Report in 2007, an estimated 40,000 people in the US, work as business or life coaches, and the $2.4 billion industry is growing at rate of 18% per year. According to the National Post, business coaching is one of the fastest growing service industries in the world.


Preface by Bob Norton: I found this article and thought it useful to people looking for a mentor or coach. A major issue I often see with this is coaches and mentors do not have the correct background for the problems at hand. Some have absolutely zero business experience and claim to be business coaches. Some are "Life Coaches" yet have not been highly successful in life themselves. Other claim to be strategy experts, or other specialist, but have no real-world track record of success in that area. They are "certified" with paid classes from others who have little real experience, just coaching.  A good coach is someone who has done the things they are coaching for a decade or more. Would you hire a football or tennis coach that never played football or tennis? Would not a person who was first a star at that sport make a better coach? Sure, they also need the skills to teach and some framework or process but that is simple really. 

So why do we have "Certified Coaches" that claim to be experts who have never been entrepreneurs, businesspeople or even managers? This is not just silly but ridiculous. I have been to the coaching conventions and what I see is a lot of lost people who cannot keep a job looking to be independent. Often, they have failed at other businesses. 


Believe it or not, entrepreneurs do not have an answer for everything. In fact, entrepreneurs can be a little messed up sometimes, and need some kind of support, or at least a listening ear. The value of mentors is often overlooked in much of the support and guidance entrepreneurs receive. But it’s there. And it’s of real value. In this post we will look at some of the key qualities of good mentors, and how to spot a good business mentor.

Good mentors have to be real

No, we don’t mean as in flesh and blood. We’re talking about people who have made a success of themselves as an entrepreneur recently, and ideally someone who is living the life now. The reason for this is that they won’t hold back on the advice they give. While some of it may be painful, you can’t argue with clear experience. If you are standing in front of someone who is proof that what they are talking about actually works, it makes it all the easier to follow through yourself. You know someone who has done it, and they are helping you.

Good mentors have the time

Note from Bob Norton - I tend not to agree with this point, as successful people develop staff and systems to run their business so they can move on and do what they most enjoy and are best at doing. I allocate about 25% of my time to coaching and mentoring to stay connected to the marketplace and because I enjoy the work and helping other grow from my own experience. Even though this work might pay only 25% as much as other work I could be doing I think it is important work and give my experience more leverage through others. Ideally, I will get some stock in a startup company with an aggressive discount for new companies to get them over the Catch-22 of not having enough cash and needing lots of help.  Success is doing things the way you want to for an enjoyable life and work schedule. The fact that your time is 100% filled all the time could mean the opposite too. 

This is one of those funny paradoxes that plague the business world. If a mentor is to have enough time for you, this suggests (rightly or wrongly) that they are not that successful. Being successful usually means a lot of hard work, so in order for you to gauge whether or not your mentor is a good choice, get to know them first. If they seem patient and calm and still successful, they are probably a good fit for your needs.

The very best mentors are clear, to the point of being sharp

These people are successful, right? And truly successful people don’t waste time. Instead, they get to the point, sometimes appearing a little gruff along the way. If you find yourself close to starting a mentor relationship with someone who appears even a little bit fluffy or vague on anything, you may want to think twice. The best mentors are clear and direct. They have created successful lives for themselves, and this has meant potentially aggressive demeanors. Be ready for this and welcome it. The last thing you need is a mentor who isn’t used to getting results. If some of this rubs off on you (without you being cruel to others) it can only be a positive thing.

So there are a few characteristics of good business mentors. If you’re in the market for one, go over them and see if any of them are a good fit. Having a mentor is a useful and very positive thing, especially as you become more successful. But choosing the right one is vital.




thoughts on coaching versus mentoring versus consulting - by Bob Norton:

Do not hire a “Business Coach” that has never run a real business, and by that I mean someone who has sold more than their time. A service business just selling your time is not a business really, it is a job or freelancing. This is relatively easy. Running a multi-disciplinary business with Sales, Marketing, Operations (customer service), Finance and Product Development functions for 5, 10 or even 15+ years developed real skills. In fact, this is an art that takes a decade to master. Do not hire an “Entrepreneurship Coach” who has not started a successful company. Do not hire an “Executive Coach” who has not had a lengthy career in business with a minimum of five years as an executive in the same size company you are in because the styles, techniques and skills vary enormously between startup, small, medium, and large businesses.

A good coach or mentor has also developed tools, models, systems, and processes to help you. They will not walk you through details but give you guidance and leverage from their time. I have developed literally thousands of slides, models, and processes since 2002 and even developed over 150 videos on key topics for my coaching clients so that a single hour with me can be like three to five hours with another coach.

Call (619) SCALE06 or click here to set up a free evaluation session. 

The focus of a coach helping a CEO, Executive or entrepreneur to grow is dependent on many factors. This slide show is just one dimension of what must be considered for CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs as a company grows from startup to only about fifty employees.


A Consultant is someone with vast experience to diagnose a problems, which the client does not understand, or they would not have the problem. Clients usually see and try to fix a symptom, not the root cause. A contractor is someone with specific skills who just brings more manpower to the job where the client understands the problem and skill sets hired and how to manage them. 

A Coach is a guide with vast experience who does not do the actual work but teaches the client to do that work with a "teach to fish" approach. There are dozens of methods to coach clients and a good coach will have many in their toolbox for different circumstances. These include Socratic Method. 

Wikipedia's Definition of Coaching: Coaching is a training or development process via which an individual is supported while achieving a specific personal or professional competence result or goal. The individual receiving coaching may be referred to as coachee. Occasionally, the term coaching may be applied to an informal relationship between two individuals where one has greater experience and expertise than the other and offers advice and guidance as the other goes through a learning process, but coaching differs from mentoring by focusing upon competence specifics, as opposed to general overall development.

Business coaching (also from Wikipedia)

Business coaching is a type of personal or human resource development. It provides positive support, feedback and advice to an individual or group basis to improve their personal effectiveness in the business setting. Business coaching includes executive coaching, corporate coaching and leadership coaching.

The Professional Business Coach Alliance, The International Coach Federation, the International Coaching Council and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches provide a membership-based association for business coaching professionals. These and other organizations train professionals to offer business coaching to business owners. However, there is no certification required to be a business or executive coach, and membership in such self-designed organizations is entirely optional. Further, standards and methods of training coaches can vary widely from organization to organization, reiterating the open-ended nature of business coaching. Many business coaches refer to themselves as Consultants, a broader business relationship than one which exclusively involves coaching.

There are almost as many different ways of delivering business coaching as there are business coaches. Some offer personal support and feedback; others combine a coaching approach with practical and structured business planning and bring a disciplined accountability to the relationship. Particularly in the small business market, business coaching is as much about driving profit as it is about developing the person.

Coaching is not a practice restricted to external experts or providers. Many organizations expect their senior leaders and middle managers to coach their team members to reach higher levels of performance, increased job satisfaction, personal growth, and career development. Business coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring involves a developmental relationship between a more experienced "mentor" and a less experienced partner, and typically involves sharing of advice. A business coach can act as a mentor given that he or she has adequate expertise and experience. However, mentorship is not a form of business coaching.


We train and certify coaches in our Six AirTight Systems. They must have no less than five years management experience and about five years coaching or consulting to be admitted to the program because we walk our talk and believe coaching and consulting requires vast experience. Technical consultants with deep experience in very narrow areas, like a computer language, have blurred the line of what a "Consultant" is really.  A top consultant needs to understand Organizational Behavior, Change Management, Process Management, Management Best Practices and Leadership at a minimum. A good consultant can change an entire organization, a bad one can help accelerate problems while eating resources.