Posted: Thu 23rd Mar 2023
Enterprise Nation is one of the small business support providers delivering voluntary mentoring as part of the government's flagship Help to Grow: Management Course.
Ninety per cent subsidised by the government and delivered in collaboration with industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs, the 12-week course provides a combination of online sessions and face-to-face learning, delivered by business schools. It's aimed at senior leaders of small and medium-sized businesses with five or more employees.
Mentorship is a crucial element of the course, with mentors providing insight into business processes and management, acting as a personal sounding board, facilitating networking, and encouraging creative thinking.
Senior business leaders who want to pursue mentoring can match with a mentor through the Help to Grow: Management Course platform. Once connected, they have access to 10 hours of one-to-one support.
In this blog, we talk to one of our recent mentoring matches:
Mentor Steve Paul is using his vast experience to provide mentoring and coaching for a wide range of professionals across various types of business and not-for-profit organisations.
Mentee Aaron Timson is head of digital at spa booking agency Spabreaks.com.
Steve, please tell us about your career and professional background up to now.
After graduating in business and marketing, the first part of my career was 'client-side'. I led sales and marketing teams at Philips Electronics, Commodore Computer, Lotus/IBM and Harper Collins, where I was sales and marketing director.
I moved to the BBC to head up the development of digital production strategy and marketing for BBC Resources Division. This led me to move to working 'agency-side' as client and strategy director and head of digital at a number of leading digital and brand agencies.
I established Cesura Mentoring and Coaching in 2016, drawing on my wide business experience and my skills as a trained coach to provide mentoring and coaching for a wide range of professionals – individuals and teams – across many types of business and not-for-profit organisations.
Aaron, can you introduce us to your business?
Aaron Timson: Spabreaks.com is the UK's leading spa booking agency, providing spa days and breaks for everyone and every occasion. We're a pioneer in the industry, working to make spas more accessible and make wellness more personal.
What made you want to become a mentor for other business owners?
Steve: I want the leaders, senior managers and 'rising stars' to be able to benefit from my skills, knowledge and experience in marketing and digital so they can drive success for their own organisations.
I also believe passionately that everyone should be able to wake up with a sense of excitement about the day ahead. That's possible in an organisation that has clear and authentic and aligned values, and a culture that supports positive, constructive and responsible behaviour at all levels.
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
How did you find out about the Help to Grow: Management Course?
Aaron: It was a recommendation from a colleague. They had learnt about the programme and knew that I was looking for a course to broaden my business and management knowledge.
What areas of your business did you need help with, and what kind of mentor were you looking for?
Aaron: As my role is very specialised, I wanted a mentor who could help develop my understanding of business beyond my immediate specialism.
I needed someone who could help me pick out areas of improvement that will drive business growth and also personal and career development. Then to help advise and assist in putting together strategies to aid growth in both of these areas. This was something Steve excelled at considerably.
What do you look for in a mentee? Why did you choose to work with Aaron?
Steve: What I most want in a mentee is enthusiasm and commitment, and a readiness to be open to learn and practise new ways of working.
Aaron, from the start, showed real determination to get the most out of the Help to Grow: Management Course. Not only so his company could benefit, but so he could grow as a leader and achieve his own personal goals.
How much potential do you think Aaron's business has? What did you hope to help him with specifically?
Steve: Aaron's business, like so many in the leisure and hospitality sector, was hugely affected by the pandemic and lockdown. As head of digital, Aaron has a crucial role in pivoting the business towards digital channels.
The task isn't only one of implementing technology, but also of reorienting the people in the sales and marketing teams towards a new way of working. An important part of this is to engage the principal stakeholders and take them with him on the journey.
How does mentoring business owners benefit you?
Steve: As a mentor, I continually learn new things about how people and different businesses work. I love to see the ways that 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.
What are the main benefits of mentoring for business owners like Aaron?
Steve: A mentor helps in two main ways. First, they bring a high level of skill and knowledge and a proven track record of experience in a particular area. This is focused mentoring that lifts the mentee to a higher level and enables them to continue to build their own skills and expertise.
Second, the mentor will work holistically with a mentee to develop broader leadership skills and confidence so that the mentee can be effective across the entire scope of their organisation.
Finally, what are the main things you've learned from your mentoring with Steve?
Aaron: I've learnt a lot from Steve. One of the main things I learnt early on in our sessions was how to tailor my presentation style to the target audience.
In my role, I have to present to both the business as a whole and to key stakeholders. The needs and requirements of both audiences vary quite a bit. Steve coached me on how to tackle these, first by focusing on what the audience is expecting from the presentation, how to present difficult information and making sure I present the correct level of detail to the right audience.
Part of the reason that this became an area of focus was due to a weekly business meeting, in which I was aware that my segment (updating on trading performance) was failing to engage the audience.
Following Steve's prompts and guidance, I changed this from a reading of stats and referring to graphs to a quiz, which mixed in the key stats with interesting titbits and fun questions.
I also changed how I spoke and positioned myself – standing so that I was able to both view the presentation alongside the audience and speak to people directly. This resulted in an immediate and noticeable change in the level of engagement, as well as positive feedback from members of staff who enjoyed the segment.
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
The national mentoring element of the Help to Grow: Management Course is being delivered by a partnership of Newable, Enterprise Nation and the Association of Business Mentors on behalf of the Department for Business & Trade.