I’m doing great! Do I need a mentor?

Business Mentoring for Women in Business Be the Business with Pink Link

It’s true, you ARE doing great. You’re a woman, running a successful business, and – despite a tough year or two – things are going well. So why would you even think of getting a mentor? In this article we’d like to show you what mentoring really is, what it can do for you and your business, and when is the best time for female business owners to consider it.

International Women’s Day is always a time for both celebration – “Look how far we’ve come” – and impatience – “Look how much is left to do”. The double lens is exactly how mentoring works so well for female business owners. You’re doing great – don’t you want to do even better? You’ve overcome some big challenges – what about the next load of challenges? Your confidence in your leadership and decision-making abilities is growing – let’s make it rock-solid.

A sign of strength, not a sign of weakness

People often think of mentoring as an intervention, something to do when you’ve run out of answers, options or inspiration. But in fact, mentoring is a multiplier; it enhances, magnifies and develops the strengths that are already there. It’s a way of developing your leadership and people management muscles before they’re tested, not once you’re already struggling. Like going to the gym before you run a marathon, not at mile 13.

Getting ready for what’s round the corner

If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty. If we didn’t know this before the pandemic, we definitely know it now. It’s much harder to overcome challenges single-handedly, as we only have our own experience and learning to draw on. With an experienced mentor you get to tap into a whole other world of learning and wisdom. The leader who thinks they’ve seen it all and can tackle it all, may be more likely to come unstuck at some point.

I am lucky to have met four amazing women whose lessons and values have helped me throughout my career, and who have given me advice that I now pass on to the people around me.

Jo Malone, Perfumer and founder

Being a woman in a predominantly male industry can be lonely; juggling a family while running a company and dealing with investors can be very challenging. Getting the best out of my team, building a strong company culture, and being focused and strong in board meetings have been just some of the things [my mentor] has helped me with.

Lily Simpson, founder, Detox Kitchen

If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road.

Richard Branson, entrepreneur

So is the time right for you to get a mentor?

Entering a mentoring relationship is an immensely personal decision. You do need to be prepared to impart your feelings or concerns, pinpoint any weaknesses or worries. To listen. To be open to advice, support, challenges and new perspectives. There are specific stages and circumstances when the time might just feel right. Here’s a summary of who, what and when these might be.

The Rocket Launcher – a new startup

Launching a new business is exciting but risky. You’re a creative and ambitious innovator but may be struggling to channel your ideas in a commercial direction. It’s also likely that you’re wearing all the hats and juggling all the balls: production and delivery of the product or service itself, finding suppliers, defining your buyers, getting the price point right, marketing, managing risks and finances.

A mentor is great for: keeping you grounded, focused, motivated through tough times; using their experience to steer you in the right direction; practical knowledge in specific areas.

The Visionary

If you’re a business owner, a few years in, you might now be looking to take your business to the next level. This may mean adding new product lines or service streams. Or expanding your facilities and recruiting additional teams. It might require a significant marketing push to get your business growing beyond your current customer base. But scaling up is a big challenge and may involve taking some major steps and possibly risks.

A mentor is great for: guidance on scaling your business, reaching new markets, recruiting talent and handling organisational change.

The Reflective Leader 

If you’ve risen to the top of a business, or overseen the growth of your own business, it’s likely you’ll have been “looking in” at your business and sector for many years. But out there are other businesses, other sectors, new startups in your sector, innovation and creativity, and in order to stay at the top of your game, it’s essential you are able to look out and see what else is out there.

A mentor is great for: a mentor from a different industry can be a fresh pair of eyes, offering new perspectives to help your own development as a leader and your business.

The Equaliser

If you’re a woman wanting to progress in your career, build a new or existing business or build confidence, a female mentor can be hugely inspiring and helpful in achieving your goals. It might be that you’re in a male dominated industry, lacking confidence or have identified specific leadership skills you want to improve or develop.

A mentor is great for: a female leader who has overcome barriers to reach a senior level, can offer empathy, practical guidance and moral support.

The Technophobe

The right technology is essential to the productivity and competitiveness of most businesses, but a lack of knowledge of the available options could be holding your business back. It could be that a technological solution could radically transform processes in the business, or that you need to digitise parts of the business, but you lack the know-how or the budget to bring in a full-time specialist.

A mentor is great for” a mentor with technology experience can help you make the right investment, offering up their experience, knowledge and even contacts in this area.

What do small business owners say about finding a mentor with Be the Business?

SME owner, Liz Smith (LG Davis) worked with mentor David Low (GSK) to improve profitability

Liz is the owner of a successful Birmingham-based family run printing company. Finding she was constantly on a “hamster wheel” running the business, having a mentor with the experience and insight enabled her to focus on the changes needed to become more productive. Working in partnership with David, visiting each other’s premises, she identified root-cause problems and set new targets. “We have had our best year for over ten years. We achieved last year’s turnover in 11 months and have made a profit for the year. We have also been able to buy another little niche business this month through the cash generated in the improved profitability.” Liz Smith.

Matt Carr (Carr’s Pasties) worked with Andrew Peters (Siemens) to plan for growth and boost productivity

Andrew’s track record of success and insight into manufacturing productivity and efficiency was invaluable to helping Matt change direction and reassess his growth plans. The mentoring experience has enabled Carr’s Pasties to scale operations without losing its family values, including planning a new bakery and managing staff pay rises. “Your mentor actually looks into your business and helps you decide what to focus on. At Carr’s we wanted to learn how to plan for expansion and maintain productivity as we grew. We also needed help identifying new customer groups.” Matt Carr.

So whatever stage you’re at, you’re doing great, but a mentor can help you do even better. Find out more about getting a mentor here.

– Sheena McDermott, Acting head of leadership and management programmes, Be the Business.

If you’re part of Pink Link, you already know the beauty of a great network. Now Pink Link is inviting you – members and non-members – to tap into this brilliant resource from Be the Business, one of the UK’s best sources of support and guidance for small business owners. Register your interest here.

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