As an established business mentor, I was recently asked for my views on how SMEs find a good business mentor and what can be done to make the range of mentoring services available to UK businesses more transparent. The contention may well be the swell of business advisers and mentors in the industry (who like me may also go by the title business consultants and success coaches).
The colleague who is researching this issue has had numerous conversations with business owners frustrated when searching for a suitable mentor. There is also a swell on discussion on the professional network, LinkedIn, that also shows that mentors are frustrated too. Many are dismayed with the expectation that their service is being promoted as free and that the government’s Growth Voucher scheme is only benefiting a handful of business advisers.
Associations to go to to Find A Good Business Mentor
In my experience, there are three ‘recognised’ routes to direct businesses to mentors who are accredited & experienced:
1. Institute of Enterprise & Entrepreneurship (IOEE) and their MentorMe accredited association.
2. Association for Business Mentors (ABM)
3. SFEDI Start Up Loans allocate new businesses a mentor for the first two years (usually the business adviser who brings the client to the scheme, but you can only work with SFEDI if you are vetted).
There are also schemes within organisations, such as GrowthAccelerator’s High Growth Coaches, Prince’s Trust who train mentors to serve their specific clients, and local schemes (e.g. I’m a community coach with ThinkLeicestershire who provide training to help businesses solve problems and accelerate change).
If you’re trying to find a business mentor, the Association of Business Mentors (of which I’m a member) exists for the sole purpose of helping you understand why you need one, how to find accredited business mentors and how to choose one that’s right for you & your business.
Following the Bread Trail to Find a Good Business Mentor
The key message here is to select one who is close to your sector, proven experience, accredited/recognised in the profession (not just a business adviser or consultant, but has actual coaching/mentoring training/skills). This is exactly the ABM mission. The other side of the solution lies in better marketing.
In my view, finding a mentor is like shopping for bread (to use a metaphor as all good mentors do!) Here you decide you need bread, and probably know you want brown or white or if it’s a loaf or rolls you’re after, maybe even if it’s sliced. If you’ re already sold on the idea you like & want bread, you will buy a brand you know, like or trust (e.g. Warburton’s or Waitrose – cf. the verified, accredited/recognised quality stamp that a long-standing organisation provides).
But if you’ve never had bread before, you may first need educating as to the benefits, what & where to look, try it out, and how to choose. Going back to mentoring, this is best done through various means: websites, events, info leaflets, radio etc.
Businesses need to understand that to find a good business mentor, they may need to talk to a few different mentors as an initial ‘free’ session to determine if (paid) mentoring can help, how much for how long, and if a particular mentor is a good fit for you (as a business and as a person).