Posted: Sun 14th May 2023
Have you ever considered becoming a small business mentor? Do you think you have what it takes to guide and support aspiring entrepreneurs?
As the economy continues to grow, the importance of small businesses can't be overstated. They are the backbone of local communities worldwide, driving innovation and creating jobs. However, running a successful small business can be challenging, especially for those who are just starting out.
This is where the role of a small business mentor comes in. Mentors can provide invaluable guidance, support and resources to help entrepreneurs achieve success. But the benefits of being a mentor go beyond just helping others – it can also be a fulfilling experience for the mentor themselves.
In this blog, we asked a group of volunteer mentors who are currently providing mentoring through the Help to Grow: Management Course to tell us how the process of supporting small business owners has benefited and enriched them. Here are six of the key benefits that our mentors outlined.
1. It's a great way to give something back
Caroline Mitten, innovation specialist for Experian and mentor on the Help to Grow: Management Course, explains:
"I've been hugely grateful for the mentors I've had throughout my career and was attracted by the opportunity to offer other business owners the same support.
"It's a fantastic privilege to be invited into an organisation and share in its most complex challenges and brightest ideas. Working specifically with business owners and senior leaders is appealing to instigate real change and purpose at the top that can have a ripple effect throughout the organisation."
David Bailey, who spent 30 years in the corporate world before becoming a non-executive director and chairman and a volunteer for the Prince's Trust, agrees:
"During my career, I've had a lot of support from colleagues, mentors and coaches, and I've seen the difference it's made to me both personally and in the businesses' performance.
"It's also incredibly rewarding to see individuals develop and grow as a result of mentoring support."
Mentor Darya Simanovich is an entrepreneur and business owner with years of expertise in the food, hospitality and leisure sectors. She says:
"I've gained many valuable lessons throughout my journey, and I believe it's important to share those experiences with others.
"Being a mentor allows me to give back to the business community and help other people avoid some of the mistakes I made. Moreover, it offers a fantastic chance to learn from mentees and stay connected to the business landscape."
2. You can make a genuine difference to people's lives
"The best thing about mentoring is making a difference," claims Emma Ellse, who spent 25 years in industry before moving into academia and teaching students marketing, business, leadership and consultancy.
"When you get that feedback where someone says they took note of what you said and tried it and the outcome has absolutely revolutionised the way they're working, it's great.
"Recently I did some leadership training, and some of the people on the course came back and said they'd reflected on what I'd told them, it's changed their approach and it's made a massive difference to their relationship with their team. So it's when it makes a massive difference, that's what you get out of it."
3. You develop your own knowledge and skills
With his long history of business mentorship and coaching, Steve Paul has been able to not only share his extensive knowledge with other people, but expand on it too.
"As a mentor, I continually learn new things about how people and different businesses work. I love to see how companies can be successful in ways that are fulfilling and sustainable.
"I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with enthusiastic people and I get satisfaction in seeing how my mentees grow and flourish so that they're able to make a difference in their own companies."
Business performance adviser Simon Davey cites this learning process as a big influence in why he became a mentor in the first place.
"Creating lasting relationships and improving knowledge are key reasons for why I'm a mentor.
"You can always learn from other people. I take satisfaction from my mentees' journeys as I gain new knowledge and see their businesses grow at the same time."
Nikki McReynolds, too, has used mentoring as a way of developing her own skillset as a business consultant, mentor and coach. She says:
"I believe a great mentor is a continuous learner. Mentors can learn things from their mentees too. As well as cultivating leadership and communication skills, mentors see challenges, people and businesses from a different perspective. And anything that builds on empathy is always a great benefit."
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
4. It's immensely rewarding
"I enjoy working with people – there's something energising and uplifting about seeing them progress and achieve their goals," says Chris Dunn, a vastly experienced business consultant and mentor.
"I still remember the joy when one of my first mentees started their own business following a difficult time in their personal life. As we went through that period together, I felt like I was a part of their success. It was a wonderful feeling.
"Mentoring also gives you a great sense of pride, being part of business owners' achievements and feeling their recognition and gratitude. Seeing individuals change their thinking, gain confidence, build their leadership skills and ultimately succeed in their careers is very satisfying."
That great feeling of satisfaction is something David Bailey can also attest to:
"The joy and satisfaction of seeing a tangible improvement in either an individual or a business, as a direct result of personal mentoring, is significant and incredibly rewarding."
Catherine McManus is a small business marketing consultant. She too recognises the numerous benefits that mentoring can generate, saying:
"I'm passionate about entrepreneurship and small businesses and mentorship is extremely rewarding in a number of ways. Understanding the particularities of each business and industry and seeing how each owner navigates the challenges and 'wins' is fascinating.
"Getting to know the mentee and building a relationship of trust, where both parties share and learn from each other, is a welcome break during the working day."
5. You learn more about yourself
"Outstanding business leadership is about human growth and the desire to encourage people to fulfil their potential," says brand strategist and mentor Alina Chirvase, who began her career in Romania before moving to London.
"I learn from business leaders that what unites us is more important than what makes us different. This is so valuable as I had to adapt to a different culture. I learn about my own limits and going beyond them. It's also about going the extra mile to add value – and doing this to the best of my knowledge and abilities."
After what she terms a "squiggly career", Helen Hill eventually moved into self-employment and now owns three businesses. It wasn't until she went solo that she realised the huge impact a mentor's outside perspective can have on personal development.
"I'm a lifelong learning addict, and mentoring has opened up a tremendous number of areas for self-development, all of which I'm embracing. It's given me a real sense of purpose by allowing me to make a difference – something I hadn't realised I was missing after leaving my roles in education."
6. You can build long-lasting relationships
Simon Davey recently mentored a business owner as part of the Help to Grow: Management Course. The sessions have proved so fruitful for both parties that the business owner now leans on Simon for advice outside of their regular mentoring calls.
"I enter every mentoring relationship to create a legacy with my mentee," Simon explains. "I've had mentees contact me to discuss ideas and get advice outside mentoring sessions because they believe in me. That inspires me to help them more."
Want to help a small business grow?
Being a mentor goes far beyond the rewarding feeling of 'giving back'. Mentors gain a range of personal development benefits from the experience.
Become a voluntary mentor for the Help to Grow: Management Course and commit 10 hours over 12 weeks to support businesses with their growth action plan. Sign up today