In February 2012, the Government launched a new free online training tool to encourage experienced business owners to mentor fledgling small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Provided by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), the facility is part of the Get Mentoring scheme which was launched in November 2011.
The online tool is designed to make it easier for individuals to join an online network of business mentors. Some 15,000 new volunteer mentors are being recruited in a bid to enable entrepreneurs to access help and support, to develop their businesses and achieve success. The online tool should make it easier for potential mentors to join the network.
Not only is mentoring an effective way of sharing (with entrepreneurs) the benefits of experience, knowledge and skills in developing businesses, it also provides opportunities for the mentor to build their own expertise and capacity by being caused in the act of mentoring to reflect on and re-examine their own experience.
Mentoring requires the mentor to re-evaluate their own practice and performance whilst trying to provide support for someone else. Good mentors tailor their advice and guidance to the needs and circumstances of those they mentor and each mentoring opportunity can be a new challenge which demands more than just telling someone 'this is how I did it'!
The aspiring businessman being successfully mentored will gain a 'critical friend' - someone to turn to who will listen, hear and give thoughtful advice. Mentoring is not a 'one-off' problem solving process. The best mentoring grows over time, alongside the fledgling business, where the mentor develops their understanding and can relate effectively to someone else's concerns and issues as they arise. Successful mentoring enables the mentored entrepreneur to move on to independence and maybe to gaining capacity and motivation to mentor others.
Information about becoming a mentor and access to the online training tool can be found at www.getmentoring.org. Ellis & Co can provide SFEDI mentoring support through our qualified business mentor, Roy Meredith.