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Get support and sound out ideas
Running a small business can be a lonely experience and you may sometimes wish you could sound out your ideas with someone else or learn from their experience. Could mentoring provide the answer?
Many organisations offer business mentoring. It is recognised as a valuable source of support for owners and managers of small and medium-sized firms that need help when making key business decisions.
Frederick Smith is contracts manager at the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (NFEA), the organisation that manages the Business Volunteer Mentor (BVM) Programme. This matches start-ups and established small and medium-sized businesses with volunteers from the business community. The service is free and has helped more than 14,000 firms to date.
What type of business can benefit most from mentoring?
Frederick Smith (FS): “Any business can benefit from mentoring. The BVM Programme helps owners and managers who may have tough decisions to make, or who are going through changes, managing conflict or who want to manage their business better.”
How can you get the most out of it?
FS: “You have to be willing to listen and to consider and evaluate the options open to you. Being open and honest with your mentor is important.”
�Mentors won’t make decisions for their client, but they will help them to examine the options and look at the pros and cons.�
Frederick Smith, NFEA
What can a business mentor help with?
FS: “When the mentor and the mentee first meet they should discuss what the mentee hopes to achieve and how the mentor might be able to help them.”
Is there anything a mentor won’t help with?
FS: “Mentors won’t make decisions for their client, but they will help them to examine the options and look at the pros and cons. If the mentor feels that the client needs help outside of their experience, they may suggest alternative help. Of course, a mentor won’t get involved with anything illegal or immoral.”
How often should a mentor and mentee meet?
FS: “This depends on both parties and the level of support needed. We offer a web-based mentoring service for clients who prefer to channel their thoughts irrespective of office hours. Clients tend to use a mixture of face-to-face meetings, telephone and email contact, as needs change.”
How important is chemistry?
FS: “A mentor and mentee must ‘gel’, so it is important to use a service where there is a varied pool of mentors to select from.”
You can read more about the BVM Programme on the BVM website.