Matthew Stafford is a co-founder of Student Upstarts, and mentors students and graduates to help them start their own businesses
What should you look for in a mentor? A good rapport, which is a gut instinct. So you should know immediately, even if you can’t explain exactly why. A mentor should stop an entrepreneur from doing something stupid and make sure they see the good opportunities that lie ahead. If a mentor doesn’t add value for three months or more, then it’s time for a change.
Jess Ratty is the director at the Cornwall Camper Company, a VW camper hire company
We used a mentor because something was missing: When the idea was born for The Cornwall Camper Company we sat down and worked out exactly how everything would work, how wonderful it would be and how much money we could potentially make. When we started we felt something was missing – maybe we didn’t have all the answers after all. I think it is very easy to assume that just because a business is your idea, that you’re the person with all the answers as to how it should be run, but that’s not exactly true. That’s when we found the fantastic Belinda Waldock, who has hauled us over the coals in every which way making sure that our dream is actually capable of becoming a reality. Having a mentor means that we have access to the questions we are not asking ourselves and also, big obvious arrows for the direction we should be thinking of taking.
They should give realistic advice: I think, as a mentor, being cautious and judging the people you are working with obviously goes a long way, but as a business that is being mentored I’d want you to waste no time in giving me realistic advice. I don’t have time to be mollycoddled.
Amanda Barlow is the managing director of Spiezia Organics, an organic skincare company
It’s good to get a second opinion: It’s quite challenging for SMEs to sometimes see the wood rather than the trees and realise how important it is to be reflective and take time out – this is key in fact. This was stressed by our mentors who provided structure and outlined outcomes.
A mentor should challenge you: The best mentors are not the people who will agree with all you say. They will ask the questions that you may not want to hear, challenge you on decisions you may have made, query and drill down on your intent – but it is always done with good intentions and your best interests at heart. In addition, they are often able to signpost you and refer you to great contacts that they see will be beneficial for all concerned.
Look for different skills: I think that an SME should choose a mentor who has a different skillset to them. For example, there’s no point in getting someone strong on marketing if that is what you’re good at. You need to feel confident in the person’s track record and their style. There has to be the “click” that intuitively you know you can trust the person and if it doesn’t work out with that mentor, you will have learned many lessons along the way.
Monique Borst is an expert in food business development
What should a good mentor be doing? A good mentor will appreciate your true potential for growth, set achievable goals and help you to identify and overcome the barriers holding you back. Has your mentor also helped you to meet peers who may have tackled the same problems as you?
Katharine Bourke is a growth manager at Growth Accelerator
Find the right answers together: I think a good mentor starts by identifying what is missing and using their broad business expertise to ask the right questions to begin a conversation. Opening up the conversation can enable the startup to identify what they need (or at least what is missing), and a good mentor can then provide guidance and support to put the basics in place. That way the individual shouldn’t be discouraged, rather they should be empowered as they find the solution that is right for their business, with support from their mentor.
There is a difference between a coach and a mentor: I use the analogy that if you are planning a business trip, a coach will ask you all sorts of sensible questions about where you need to go, what time you need to get there, how much luggage you might need to take; a mentor will ask all those questions, and add the knowledge of having done the journey before and being prepared to carry your luggage and show you the way.
Naomi Timperley is a business mentor at the Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub
A mentor should know the business well: As a mentor I think you have to get to know the whole business before you can help the individual. The mentor/mentee relationship is based on trust and honesty. The way I would, and have, handled these situations is to go right back to basics and cover all bases, including financials.
Zulfiqar Deo is a professional business mentor
Think about return on investment (ROI): Securing the services of a mentor can be like buying any other service. You have to understand the value they add and the ROI to your business before you actually pay for them. Even if it’s free mentoring, the ROI rule still applies because you are investing time as opposed to time and money.
Mark Pearson is chairman and founder of the discount website myvouchercodes.co.uk
The benefits of mentoring: Mentors are great for helping you grow your business network and connect you with other business people that can help. Some of the most successful people I have met have had a very close network of advisers from a range of sectors. Working in isolation as an SME can be a huge disadvantage, networking is key and a well connected mentor is vital.
Via The Guardian