More than 3,000 senior business leaders have stepped forward to mentor small firms as the UK economy slides into recession.
The mentors have volunteered ten hours of their time as part of the government’s flagship business training course Help to Grow: Management, which offers SMEs a total of 50 hours of leadership and management training across 12 weeks, with the government covering 90% of the costs involved.
They are part of a growing national network of trained mentors, recruited in under four months by a consortium comprising small business support platform Enterprise Nation business support provider, Newable, and the Association of Business Mentors (ABM).
The course is delivered by more than 50 business schools with the aim to increase the core management skills in the UK’s ambitious small business community to help increase productivity and resilience
Emma Jones, CBE, founder and CEO of Enterprise Nation, said: “The value of the experience and wisdom that mentors can bring has never been greater as we head into more challenging economic times. With this willing army of mentors, we must make sure entrepreneurs can access mentoring to navigate the tough times ahead.
“By building this network of mentors, we are creating a legacy capable of supporting the economic growth we need to see.”
According to research, the nation’s appetite for mentoring is on the rise, with 82 per cent of firms saying they are now interested in being mentored. Around two thirds, 66 per cent of businesses that receive mentoring say it helped them survive and three quarters (76%) say it was key to business growth.
Glasgow-based Lorna McBreen spent 15 years in corporate roles in energy firms SSE and Ovo Energy before launching her own consulting business last year.
An accredited practitioner with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council and a full member of the ABM, Lorna now works directly with businesses to develop strategies and coach leaders to help generate growth. She volunteered as part of the Help to Grow: Management course and now supports a business based in Belfast in order to ‘give back’.
Lorna said: “I spent 15 years in senior roles ensuring businesses had the right processes and procedures in place.
“Making some key decisions around strategy and goals can really help entrepreneurs focus and build an action plan to grow and succeed. Mentoring is about supporting them to take ownership of those decisions and deliver on them, while handling the challenges that arise.
“We may be in a recession, but there are some important strategies businesses can develop to help them cut costs efficiently, without salami slicing in a way that harms the business, while continuing to work towards goals.
“I joined Help to Grow: Management because I wanted to give back. Mentoring is so rewarding when you can see the difference that you’re making. I’d like to help get the message out there about how life-changing it can be for a business.”
Solihull-based podcaster and entrepreneur and fully trained mentor, Victoria Brown offered her expertise to businesses without hesitation. She said: “I think the hardest part of being a business owner, is feeling that you’re alone – like you’re at the bottom of the mountain with no rope and no real idea how to get to the top. Having a mentor – especially if they have related experience – gives you a chance to talk through your ideas, reflect, and move forward.
“What surprised me most was just how much it energised me, and how much of a responsibility I felt to the people involved. Coaching other business owners to build their dream business and make breakthroughs is a very special honour, so when the opportunity came along to take part in the Help to Grow: Management Course, to help mentor businesses in a more formal capacity, I leapt at the chance.
“Being a mentor is a very privileged position – someone is trusting you with their business baby and their dreams. There’s nothing quite like seeing the penny drop with a business owner, as they realise the solution to their problem and how to move their business forward.”
In exchange for offering their time and experience, voluntary Help to Grow: Management Course mentors receive significant value in the form of industry recognised mentor training, access to support, networking opportunities with other mentors, and the recognition of being part a national effort aimed at supporting the growth of the UK economy by increasing small businesses’ productivity.
The consortium was appointed by the Government to develop a national network of business leaders and experts who will share their skills and experience with firms on the practical management training course.