Find your business mentor
Imagine you tried to buy a wedding dress without your best friend's input, or bought a book without reading the critics' comments on the cover. Decisions are easier to make when they're backed by trustworthy advice - and never more so than when you're starting your own business. And that's where business mentors come in.
A business mentor is a business professional who can give advice and act as a sounding board for your big idea. And finding the right one could be crucial to your start-up's success.
You can find the right mentor for you with the government-backed mentorsme.co.uk, which acts as a portal to mentoring organisations nationwide. The British Banking Association has funded training for 250 banking professionals, who are now offering their mentoring skills as part of the Mentorsme scheme. We asked Derek Duddridge, who works with Welsh mentoring organisation Prime Cymru, what a mentor can offer anyone thinking of starting their own business.
1. We can widen your horizons.
Mentors are not business coaches. We don't give you answers; we help you to find your own,' says Derek Duddridge. 'The mentoring process is about helping you to develop your own business skills, not waving a magic wand. We can help you analyse your business idea, plan how to put it into action and widen your horizons to give you the best chance of success.
2. We can make the business world a less lonely place.
Whether you meet your mentor face to face, email or speak on the phone, the relationship gives you an independent, non-judgemental person to bounce ideas off. Setting up any business carries an emotional as well as a monetary cost - what you do will affect your partner, family and friends. A mentor gives you a place to unload stress and frustrations, or celebrate success with someone who truly understands your business.
3. We can challenge your ideas, in a good way.
The most common question I'm asked is, "What do I do next?" You might have a skill or idea that you want to make a business out of. Perhaps you want to take your enterprise to the next level. A mentor can help you to develop your ideas - where will you sell your product; who is your target audience; what funding will you need? We're there to encourage and support, but also to offer a constructive challenge and open your eyes to potential problems.
So, entrepreneurs out there, prepare to make a mentor your new best friend. Here's how the relationship works…
- mentorsme.co.uk acts as a gateway, connecting people or businesses with mentoring organisations. The 'mentor finder' tool will help to match you with a mentor provider, depending on your location and stage of business. You then contact the organisation, which will find the right mentor for you from its network.
- Mentoring sessions might be face to face, via email or on the phone - or a mix of all three. Duration might be 20 minutes to an hour. It all depends on your needs.
- mentorsme.co.uk lists not-for-profit and commercial organisations, so there is both free and paid-for expertise available. Prices for paid-for mentoring sessions depend on the kind of mentoring you choose, from virtual mentoring, telephone or video mentoring, through to the more expensive face-to-face sessions. One option that may reduce the cost of mentoring is to organise group sessions with other local business owners
4. We can help you find contacts, funding and support.
A key job for mentors is helping you to build a network of experts around you. There are lots of organisations that can help you to write business plans, make contacts in your sector, find peer support and access funding. I can see the lights go on in a mentee's eyes when a door opens that they hadn't even thought of.
5. We can fill your knowledge gaps.
A mentor can help you to understand that you don't have to be an expert in every area of your business, but you can find people to fill the gaps. It's often more time and cost effective to find a good bookkeeper if you don't like doing the figures, for example, than to struggle to do them yourself. We'll help you work out what skills you're missing and who can provide them.
6. We can help you plan your route to success.
Most mentors will agree your short, medium and long-term goals with you, and an action plan to ensure you achieve them. That might mean you go away with "homework" after each contact. Saying you'll complete a certain task by a deadline or the next call is a great way to keep on track.
7. We can help you grow your business.
When you're preparing a business idea, a mentor will help you work out if it's viable and if it will give you the income you want. Later on, when you're caught up in the day-to-day process of running a business, a mentor is just as important. We can help you decide if you want to grow your enterprise, increase your product range or keep it at the current level. It's your business; you choose. But a mentor can help you come to the right decision for you.
Head to Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more:
- Expert information on starting your own business
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- Money-saving videos and inspiring start-up videos
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