Canadian Biomass Magazine

Expert Resources

April 1, 2011
By Reg Renner

As a high school basketball coach, I often think about how best to teach and prepare young athletes for the rigours of a fast paced, high-pressure play-off game.

As a high school basketball coach, I often think about how best to teach and prepare young athletes for the rigours of a fast paced, high-pressure play-off game. Did we spend enough time practising our skills? How will the players respond to the unpredictable flow of the game? After 12 years of coaching, I realize that each game is a brand new situation that we just have to play through to see what the outcome will be, while relying on the training and preparation we did to get us here in the first place.

With this example in mind, I believe that you can benefit greatly from having a coach, mentor, and advisor for your bioenergy project. Your bioenergy business proposal may be brand new territory for you and your partners or you may be an experienced professional. Either way, you can still benefit from having someone to guide and critique your performance, helping you get the most from your efforts.

It is my observation that in the business world, many of us think that because we are grown-ups with experience, we do not need any help. If this is true, why do professional athletes hire and rely on coaches, fitness trainers, and nutritionists to help them perform at their peak? Trying to do it all by yourself is okay for an amateur athlete, but not for a professional athlete. I firmly believe that the same can be said for professional bioenergy projects.

So now you are thinking that you might need a coach, mentor, or advisor, but which ones do you need? The roles are separate and distinct; having all three will greatly improve your chances for business success.


A coach has experience and an ability to motivate and prepare you for the task ahead. Coaches must often react under pressure to diagnose a problem and formulate a solution that a team can grasp quickly and put into action. There is no greater thrill for a coach than to call a time-out, diagram a play, and then watch the players execute it successfully. A coach must be an excellent communicator and have an understanding of what the team is capable of doing with its current level of knowledge.

A mentor is a person who has journeyed down a similar road before you. I encourage you to look for a local entrepreneur who has successfully built a start-up business into an established company. A mentor should be someone who has walked in your shoes, ahead of you. His or her experience, wisdom, and insight can often be the difference between taking the easier path or not. A really good mentor can help you sort through all the details and brings a well-balanced perspective to the current situation.

An advisor often brings a specific talent or skill to the team. An advisor’s focus is narrower than a coach’s, which is why head coaches often hire assistants to handle the offence, defence, and special sub-teams. In choosing an advisor, you will want to look at the skills of your current management team to see how it is functioning and where there are gaps in the knowledge and experience base. For example, do you need help with technical issues, marketing, or financing? Advisors can be hired for short-term projects or they can become long-term trusted helpers such as your accountant or bank manager.

As a financing specialist for the past six years, I am often asked to advise on how to obtain sufficient financing for bioenergy projects. In some cases, it becomes apparent that the team needs help from an advisor who specializes in financing. But sometimes, the team also needs a coach who can bring the members together to help them achieve their dream. Other times, the team could benefit from a mentor to show the best path to success. Regardless, it is extremely important that you do not underestimate the importance of a coach, mentor, or advisor to the success of your project.

People often think that competition in the business world is different from competition in the athletic world. Yes, you might be successful without a coach, mentor, or advisor, but your chances of success are much greater if you have a professional support team. So be prepared to include room in your budget for this type of expert resource, as I believe that you will find the experience, insights, and guidance worth the money spent.

Reg Renner of Atticus Financial in Vancouver, BC, finances machinery ranging from biomass boilers to densification equipment. With 38 years of industry experience, he recently helped secure carbon offset credits for four greenhouse clients. E-mail:

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