According to a report by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, SME demand for business mentors is rapidly increasing in the UK. 60 percent of companies are now claiming that the information and advice they have received from their mentor has been valuable in achieving growth and development goals. Interestingly, new start-ups who have been in business for 3 years or less are statistically more likely to find mentor advice beneficial, highlighting the need for young businesses to seek support.
Choosing a Mentor
Quite simply, your business will fail to derive true value from a mentor if that mentor is not right for your organisation. Unfortunately, mentors are not ‘one size fits all’, so it’s important to select a supportive partner who not only understands your business as it is now, but also shares the same vision in terms of future growth and development. This will help to ensure that they work to guide your firm down the most effective route.
Here are some aspects to take into consideration:
One of the first and most important questions to ask is whether a mentor has specific experience working with start-up enterprises, or whether they have exclusively partnered with pre-established businesses. This is because start-ups often have significantly different needs and requirements to longer standing companies, and may be eligible for different forms of financial support and other types of benefit, subsidy, or investment. Your mentor should have a good understanding of the start-up sector.
While some mentors operate across the board, others prefer to work exclusively within specific sectors or industries, offering a tailored and personalised service within a niche corner of the market. If your start-up is confined to a specific sector, rather than spanning multiple industries, it may be worth considering a specialist mentor for your particular sector. For example, a tech start-up may get more value from a specialist tech-based mentor who has specific experience working with start-ups in the sector.
Area of Expertise
It’s also important to consider which areas of business growth and development are a current priority, and select a mentor with proven expertise and passion in these particular areas. These areas could be general accounting, tax advice, HR and recruitment, identifying investment opportunities, locating suitable funding, gaining new clients, marketing your business, and so on. Based on the government report, financial-related advice is the most sought after information young businesses are looking for.
Ask yourself what you want for your business. Then ask a mentor what they want for your business. Start-ups and mentors should both be working towards the same ultimate goal, sharing the same vision for the future of the company. For start-ups looking to rapidly grow the company through new hires, for example, this could mean working with a mentor who is passionate about implementing enterprise management incentive plans, offering attractive benefits for both employees and business owners.
Utilising Mentor Knowledge
However, getting the most value from a business mentor isn’t just about finding the right form of support; it’s also about knowing the best ways to utilise the support that is available to you. Having the right mentor is pointless unless you know how to best use their knowledge, and how to apply this knowledge to your own business needs and requirements, resulting in ongoing development.
Here are some useful tips for working with a business mentor:
Businesses and mentors should ensure they communicate regularly, clearly defining ongoing business goals to ensure that both the mentor and the organisation are continuing to work towards achieving the same aim. It's worth taking the time initially to produce a clear plan to ensure an effective process.
It is important for start-ups to find their own methods and techniques for operation; processes that work for them. This means carrying on as normal, allowing a mentor to observe at first and provide feedback, rather than simply jumping straight into ways of doing this. Mentor benefits won’t appear overnight.
Try not to think of a mentor as an authority figure, but as a support. Don’t be afraid to get involved and have your say. Working together to discover mutually agreeable processes is one of the most effective ways to ensure your business is able to continue operating efficiently, even after end of contract.
At The Accountancy Cloud, we work with tech start-ups across the country to help them achieve their goals and develop their business in the most effective directions. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help your business to grow, request a free consultation today.