As part of Boost Business Lancashire’s Growth Mentoring week, we have pulled together the best insights from our mentoring blogs to summarise how a mentor could help your business grow.
They will help you focus on strategy
Taking a step back from the business. Working ON the business, not IN it. Taking the helicopter view. Seeing the bigger picture. The clichés are endless when it comes to describing how effective business owners focus on strategy without getting bogged down in the day-to-day running of the business. Whatever your chosen terminology, this is exactly what a mentor can help you to do.
As Jane Houghton-Fenning, of Community & Business Partners, puts it: “A day in business is over before you know it…business mentors can help you see the wood for the trees…to focus on the fundamental things that it’s easy to ignore, such as managing the finances effectively, staff development and marketing.”
They provide a great sounding board
It can be lonely at the top. A mentor is someone you can confide in when you’re wrestling with a seemingly insurmountable problem, or who asks you to consider certain questions that when answered by you confirm that your instincts were right all along.
As mentee turned mentor, Morgan Rothwell, explains in a story about the time he was considering an acquisition: “I called my mentor to run through things…he has bought and sold many businesses, he’s been through the mill. He’s had some challenges along the way but he’s successful, and, I know I can trust him.”
They understand the challenges you face
There are many people who you can turn to for advice – friends, colleagues, your spouse. But who can truly empathise with your situation, understand how hard it is to dust yourself off after a setback and help you avoid the same pitfalls they dropped into?
Consider these words from Morgan Rothwell about his first experience of mentoring: “I couldn’t believe it. I’d actually met someone who was psychic, who had a higher level of knowledge. Was it a superhuman? No, I’d met someone who was a little older, a lot wiser and much more experienced…I knew I was going to listen to every word he said.”
You don’t know the value of a mentor until you have one
Many business owners think that mentoring isn’t for them. They may already have people they confide in, they may question the value of investing the time in a mentoring relationship, or they may see a mentor as a threat to their own established way of doing things. But as Morgan Rothwell, director of D&M Creative, continues: “I don’t remember thinking I needed help.
My business was going fairly well, we were profitable. However, as soon as I met my mentor something clicked…a 50 something man dressed casually, speaking clearly and concisely, weighed up my five-year-old business in about 15 minutes.”
A mentor isn’t there to judge or criticize, but to support and encourage
“First and foremost a great mentoring relationship is one where the mentee trusts and respects the mentor, but at the same time feels understood and not judged,” says Louise Yates, owner of Clear Perspectives Ltd and who is also a Community & Business Partners mentor. “If rapport is present, dialogue will seem easy and even enjoyable, which allows the mentee to talk openly about their fears and shortcomings, as well as their strengths.”
As Morgan Rothwell adds: “Mentors inspire, they encourage, they support, but most of all, from my perspective; they are there to help you with no hidden agenda, no ego to show off and no axe to grind.”
They will help you to make your own decisions (and better ones)
Some business owners fear a mentor is going to come into their business and begin dictating the direction their business should be going in or forcing their opinion on them.
But according to Louise Yates, this is not what the mentoring relationship is all about. “Developing long term capability and confidence involves the mentor questioning to help the mentee think through challenges themselves, come up with their own solutions and take responsibility for choosing a course of action,” says Louise. “A mentoring session where the mentor imparts their own ideas and solutions will do little more than give the mentee some short term solutions to their immediate challenges.”
They will give you an honest opinion
As a business owner there will be few people in your inner circle who will be able to give you a 100 per cent objective view of a situation. Either people have their own stake in the business that clouds their judgment, or they won’t be brutally honest for fear of upsetting the apple cart.
According to Jane Houghton-Fenning, because mentors have a community-spirited interest in a business (they are volunteering their own time), rather than a financial one, they have the required emotional distance to allow them to think clearly. This means they can help support business owners to cut through the confusion to make informed and well-thought-out decisions.
They have expertise in your sector
Many businesses going through the Boost Business Lancashire Growth Mentoring programme talk about the value of having a mentor with knowledge of their particular industry.
We’ll let the quotes below speak for themselves: “We wanted to market our products to architects and specifiers, but had little knowledge of the specifying world and how to effectively access this market.
We were introduced to Alan Varley, a director of Lynx Architects Ltd, as our mentor and he explained exactly what architects and specifiers need from a supplier.” Rosie Connor, director, JRC Roofing “I was matched with Carl Bradshaw – an experienced business mentor and entrepreneur. Carl gave us the confidence to go for a full market launch. His knowledge and experience have enabled him to enhance our chances of success.
We owe a debt of thanks to Carl and are delighted with his contribution.” John Leigh, sales and marketing director, CCS (2002) Ltd “The help and support received from our mentor Victor has been invaluable as we strive to grow our business in an efficient and sustainable way.” Stephen Anderson, director, Pendle Doors
Boost Business Lancashire’s growth mentoring programme has over 250 mentors with a range of skills and experience and a passion for seeing businesses succeed. To access the expertise of a growth mentor for your business, complete our online form or call 0800 488 0057.