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Mentoring: How guidance provides entrepreneurs with chance to grow

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Written by: Hannah Baker | Posted 26 October 2017 13:39

Mentoring: How guidance provides entrepreneurs with chance to grow

When Bristol-based business owner Janice Tye decided to seek help from a business coach she had no expectations. She certainly did not imagine the sessions would help her make money or tease out problems she didn’t realise she even had.

Today Ms Tye, who is the founder of Bristol design firm 123 Design, is a mentor herself – and says she is reaping benefits from the process.

She said: “Mentoring has reinforced my experience working with people. You discover so much about how other people think and approach problems.

“It can be incredibly lonely as a sole trader running a business. If you try to run a business with only the knowledge in your head, you are shutting yourself in a locked room. Talking to other people you can exchange problems and you realise you are not on your own.”

This Friday (27 October) is National Mentoring Day, which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of mentoring to UK business owners.

The Federation of Small Business states that 70 per cent of small companies that receive mentoring survive for five years or more – that is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs.

And a recent survey by the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 94 per cent of SMEs using external support have seen benefits.

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According to the research these businesses are more ambitious and have higher relative turnovers.

“Small businesses are the life blood of the UK and we are lucky that we can set up businesses without too much trouble,” added Ms Tye. “The more help you can get during the first three years the better.”

Liz Sands is the director of Bristol-based small business support service BRAVE Enterprise, which runs mentoring schemes for people who are currently out of work and want to set up a small company.

She says there are plenty of benefits for the mentors too.

“The mentors have a chance to learn themselves and hear new ideas, as well as getting the opportunity to take themselves outside their own business,” she explained. “It also gives them a sense of giving back.”

Charity sector entrepreneur Laura Salisbury lives in Bristol and is involved in a BRAVE Enterprise mentoring scheme.

She is currently looking to set up an organisation that will support the voluntary sector with funding.

“You can get support from family and friends but a business mentor will give you objective advice. A mentor won’t just say the things you want to hear.

“Mentoring really helps with confidence because it enables you to speak to someone who has already done it. My mentor knows what skills I have and what areas I need support with.

“You can never have too much support and having lots of different viewpoints and options can help give you more clarity. When it comes to mentoring, there is nothing to lose.”

But what’s the best way to find a mentor?

“For entrepreneurs looking for mentor search Google or LinkedIn for private mentors or think about business incubation or acceleration through organisations such as Oracle, Entrepreneurial Spark or SETsquared in Bristol,” said John Courtney chairman of Bristol-based Stockwood Ventures.

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Mr Courtney, who was shortlisted for a SPARKie Award by the Bristol and Bath tech community for his mentoring work, advises people looking for a mentor to “be clear about what you want”.

He said: “Is it just grey hairs and experience, do you need help covering a functional weakness such as marketing or do you want introductions? Different people need different things.

Rav Bumbra’s Bristol-based company Structur3dpeople, which recruits people for the tech industry, also runs mentoring programmes for women looking to start their own business or kick-start a career in tech.

She believes mentoring is a way for successful business leaders to “give back” and “help nurture the next generation of talent”.

She said: “Helping others to fill their knowledge gaps and seek opportunities to help them grow and excel, can be a rewarding experience. It also helps [leaders] in their own self-development, opening up new connections and enhancing their leadership skills.

Ms Bumbra, who has worked in the tech industry for almost 25 years, says she is passionate about helping women succeed through mentoring.

“It was astounding to see women who initially needed some career guidance, come out of the programmes with renewed confidence levels, so motivated and inspired that they felt empowered to take on the world.”

Her advice to other leaders is to start mentoring programmes if possible within their businesses.

“Developing talent strategically will contribute to business productivity and performance,” she explained.

“By showing this support and interest to your employees, you demonstrate that management is willing to invest the time and resources necessary to help employees succeed in their careers. This is a great way of retaining exceptional employees and attracting new talent to the business.”

There are also more formal mentoring qualifications available to business leaders. The University of the West of England (UWE) offers a range of accredited courses for those looking to learn more about the mentoring process.

“Mentoring taps into existing knowledge and wisdom about the practicalities and rigours of business,” said Arthur Turner, programme manager for the Institute of Leadership and Management Coaching and Mentoring qualifications at the Faculty of Business and Law at UWE.

“Mentoring should be undertaken with a deep regard for the understanding of the processes involved and with clear peer support.”

Alison Edgar, a business coach known as ‘The Entrepreneur’s Godmother, has mentored hundreds of business owners and says it has given her “more authority in her field”.

She said: “Mentoring is a great way to give back and help grow the economy. If leaders can mentor businesses and help them grow, this can only have a positive impact.

Anyone in business knows how hard it can be and would have at some point wished they had someone to help guide them along the way.”

She believes the Government should be doing more to drive people towards their local growth hubs as a central point for business support.

“There are loads of mentor programmes for business owners.

“A great place to start is Business West as they will be able to point you in the right direction. Another great signpost is the Department of International Trade (DIT) – and let’s not forgot our friend Google; a simple internet search will give you a ton of advice and contacts,” she added.


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