Help to Grow: Management Course – Mentor Q&A with Kenneth MacKenzie

Help to Grow: Management Course – Mentor Q&A with Kenneth MacKenzie

Posted: Tue 23rd Jan 2024

The Help to Grow: Management Course is a government-funded, 12-week course with a combination of online sessions and face-to-face learning delivered by business schools. Businesses with five or more employees can receive expert mentoring to aid their future growth.

Currently, there are 2,500 trained mentors sharing their insights and expertise with the businesses that have joined the course. Here, we talk to one of them: Kenneth MacKenzie, from Glasgow.

Kenneth takes us into the world of mentoring and how he approaches his work helping small businesses to grow.

About Kenneth

  • Started his career as a technician apprentice and then qualified as a tool-maker, manufacturing pumps mainly for the energy sector.

  • Moved into direct sales in the same sector and was chosen to take part in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) for management candidates.

  • Carried out a number of business development projects after the MBA, which led to him moving to Switzerland.

  • Built two businesses in Switzerland, one in design and engineering and the other in contracts.

  • Returned to Scotland to take on a role that involved supporting other businesses.

  • Currently developing a services business in Scotland that is aiming to expand internationally.

What made you want to become a mentor to other business owners?

When I returned to the UK, I felt I had experience and insight that might be useful to smaller companies as they plan to grow. On top of that, my full-time role is focused on growing businesses here in Glasgow.

I wanted to be active in UK industry, and the role of a mentor on the Help to Grow: Management Course was an ideal opportunity for me to grow personally too.

What do you think makes a good mentor?

  • Active listening skills: Active listening is the base for any relationship between mentee and mentor. The objective of wanting to grow belongs to the mentee and their business, and the only way for a mentor to understand what they need and want is by listening.

  • Clarity: There can be quite a lot for a mentee to take in, and out of this information stream they must be able to identify their own ideas and goals. A mentor must be able to support them with setting clear aims and objectives.

  • Focus: Some of the ideas and goals could be wide-ranging, and the mentee might need to focus on certain key elements of the plan. A mentor needs to support the mentee in developing this focus when necessary. By doing so, they'll allow the mentee to summarise and prioritise their most important tasks.

  • Support planning: Mentees need to plan what they'll put into practice to grow. The plan should be easy to apply and simple to measure. A mentor supporting this process is often the key to its success.


Help to Grow: Management Course – Develop your business with a mentor

Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more


Can anyone be a mentor, or does it take a specific type of person?

Mentoring is quite a passive role. As a mentor, you allow the mentee to develop their view and plan. However, they must be able to draw on your experience as and when they need or want.

You can't drive the process, nor can you push from the back seat. Some business leaders may find this transition from drive to guide difficult, and you must be able to recognise the difference and tailor their strategy appropriately.

How does being mentored benefit business owners specifically?

The relationship between the mentor and mentee must be based on trust and respect, and the mentor needs the right skills and experience.

When mentoring, I always ask a mentee what they want from me. These initial needs can change during the sessions, but it's important that the mentee has a chance to ask that the relationship have some deliverables.

A mentee may benefit from a safe environment in which they can talk through their ideas, be challenged with alternatives, and be guided to see potential areas of risk. It's also good for them to have a source of experience they can draw on to compare ideas and learn about past mistakes and successes.

And personally, what do you get out of mentoring?

By mentoring, I have the opportunity to experience new businesses and managerial styles. That allows me to challenge my own business roles and growth plans.

Personally, I get a feeling of achievement when a mentee shows their commitment to the mentoring sessions and uses the outcome in their action plans.

What do you look for in a mentee?

A willingness to respect and use the support I give, while being able to ask for other ideas when needed. The mentee has to want to be part of the relationship and be willing to push for clear personal benefits.

Finally, what's the best thing about being a mentor, and what's the biggest challenge?

In my training and career, I've had the privilege to learn from skilled teachers and mentors, who have given me a range of managerial tools and skills. I particularly enjoy being able to share this knowledge.

While I like to make sure I have enough time to support each business owner I mentor, the biggest challenge remains building fast bonds with the mentee so they gain the most out of the process.


Help to Grow: Management Course – Develop your business with a mentor

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.

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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