In addition to the support services above, as part of your Start Up Loan, you have the opportunity to be matched with a mentor who will help support you over your first year. You can arrange meetings with your mentor at times that suit you both, whether face-to-face, over the phone, Skype or email.
The mentor will be someone impartial who might have run their own business, worked for many years with clients who run small businesses, or who has good experience in an area you would like to be supported such as sales or marketing. The mentor’s goal is to provide guidance, point you in the right direction and be a sounding board, but they do not do work for you or offer consultancy services.
Mandy Corr can help with the above support services, as well as helping to get you matched with a mentor. Contact Mandy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mentoring – What Is It?
A mentor is someone who guides you through the early stages of your business. They have generally run their own companies, often a number of them, and are experienced in helping other businesses.
Your mentor’s role is purely to guide you, rather than provide answers. They will use their past experiences to help you consider alternative courses of action to help solve problems, leading to new insights and better business performance.
We also encourage our mentors to introduce you to contacts from the networks they have built up over the years. However, a mentor will only do this if they feel that both parties will benefit from the relationship and that you will act professionally at all times.
Generalist Mentor – A generalist mentor has experience and knowledge in most areas of business. They will be able to help you with basic problem solving and strategy in the three main areas of business – sales and marketing, operations and finance.
Specialist Mentor – If you need more specialist guidance then your mentor will aim to introduce you to a more specialist mentor, for example a lawyer, accountant, product designer or marketing expert. You may also want to seek out these people yourself.
Mentoring – What Isn’t It?
A mentor shouldn’t give you answers or tell you what to do – only you can decide what goals or actions to implement as it is your business and it is you who will live with the results.
Mentoring isn’t about creating a dependency on the mentor either – you need to create your own path.
How Much Time Do I Get With My Mentor?
There is nothing definitive around how much time you should spend with a mentor as some people need more guidance than others. The Start Up Loans programme provides for up to 15 hours over your first year (2 hours a month for the first 3 months and 1 hour a month after that) but you can discuss this with your mentor. Remember that you mentor is also running their own business so you should be respectful of their time.
Mentoring can take place face-to-face, by email, IM, phone, Skype and even in group sessions. In addition to your mentor, where relevant we may suggest pairing you up with another loan recipient who may benefit from your start-up experiences and vice versa. We call this peer-to-peer support.
How Do I Contact My Mentor?
Mentors will often stipulate when they are available and how they prefer to be contacted. Some will prefer to book meetings well in advance so that you have dates to work towards and some will prefer to have a more casual relationship so that you can contact them whenever you have an issue that needs discussing.
Mentors will aim to be flexible but all of them have their own businesses or, at least, are working with a number of mentees so they may not be available to you all the time. It is also important to note that you should only really contact mentors during office hours, unless they say they are happy to be contacted on evenings and weekends too (emails are fine outside of office hours of course).
How Do I Make The Most Of Mentoring?
It is up to you to drive the mentoring relationship forward and get the most out of the time you have with your mentor. Don’t just wait for your mentor to get in touch with you (although most mentors do check in with you from time to time) – you should be pro-active in arranging meetings or chats with them.
To get maximum benefit from your mentoring sessions it is important to come prepared. Don’t just turn up and expect the mentor to lead the session and do all the talking. Make a list in advance of all the things you’d like to discuss with your mentor so that the session has structure and objectives.
Take notes during the meeting (it is amazing the number of mentees who turn up without even a pen and paper!) so that nothing is forgotten – don’t just rely on memory! You and your mentor can create a ‘to do’ list of things that you need to action before you next meet up. Don’t expect your mentor to do those things for you – it is your business so you need to do the work.
Mentoring sessions shouldn’t be viewed as an inconvenience when you are busy. Too many small businesses fail because the owner/manager spends all of their time dealing with all the little, day-to-day tasks and not enough time on the ‘bigger picture’. While you can use the mentoring sessions to resolve the little issues, it is good practice to stick to more strategic thinking because that is where the mentor will provide the most value.
Problems With Repaying Your Loan?
Your mentor can offer input on things like your cashflow and profit, but they are not there to offer direct advice if you are struggling to make your Start Up Loan repayments. For any issues regarding your loan repayments you should contact GC Business Finance as soon as possible. Contact details can be found on your loan agreement or are available by contacting us here at Transmit. The worst thing to do is pretend the problem isn’t there and let your loan repayment bounce.
We are recruiting volunteer mentors throughout the UK – people who can spare a few hours every month to provide mentoring support and to inspire our new entrepreneurs.
We want people who understand what it means to run a small business and who are passionate about helping start-ups to flourish.
To be a mentor, you need to:
-Offer an independent and external perspective to assist your mentee when they are making decisions.
-Be a trusted shoulder to lean on when your mentee is feeling anxious or uncertain.
-Be an outlet for discussing ideas, challenges and new opportunities.
-Help your mentee access new networks and make connections.
Click here to register to sign up as a mentor.