Posted: Tue 18th Jul 2023
Enterprise Nation is one of the small business support providers tasked with delivering voluntary mentoring as part of the government's flagship Help to Grow: Management Course.
The programme is a 90% government funded, 12-week course with a combination of online sessions and face-to-face learning, delivered by business schools. It is open to businesses with five or more employees.
Here, we talk to Annekatrin Madlung, one of the voluntary mentors involved with the course. Annekatrin, who's based in Chesham in Buckinghamshire, shares the story of how she became a mentor and explains how taking part in mentoring can transform small businesses and their owners.
Please tell us about your professional background and career.
I started my career as a tour and stage manager in the performing arts in an organisation that promotes non-European cultures to the German public. I came to the UK to work in that area with a partner organisation.
I loved that work, but there came a time when I reviewed what I wanted to do professionally. That took me to Amnesty International, where I had an 18-year career, ending as a project manager and programme co-ordinator on the operational management side of things.
Again, it came to a point when I needed to reflect on where my career and passions would take me. After 18 years, it wasn't easy to shift and so I sought the help of a mentor.
This brought me to founding my own business in 2017, Global Recourse, a business management consultancy. I support small businesses with setting up and building their systems, structures and processes.
With large organisations, I might be called in to transform and improve operations and operational procedures. I combine that with team development workshops and mentoring.
What made you want to become a mentor for other business owners?
I run my own company, which means I'm familiar with the many challenges and fears that other business owners experience. So, why not pass that experience on?
People tell me I'm a natural problem-solver. I see opportunities where others see a challenge. I think in terms of possibilities and I love seeing people turn their fear into encouraged action.
I believe in the powerful impact that mentoring can have on an individual's professional and personal growth. I've experienced it myself through some great mentors – people who have supported me in seeing things differently and encouraged me to be open, take opportunities and succeed in moving forward.
Mentoring has been my passion for over 10 years. I feel enriched by sharing my life and workplace experience with people who aspire to expand their horizons, advance their careers and make the most of their life and work experiences.
What makes a good mentor?
In my eyes, a good mentor is:
an active listener who watches and observes to help make sense of things
a sounding board
enthusiastic to share their experiences, networks and resources and offer suggestions
keen to encourage diverse perspectives and seeing things differently
self-aware and a role model
honest and candid, giving constructive and quality feedback
constantly looking to grow their network
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?
There isn't an easy yes or no to this question. I believe everyone is at some point a mentor, whether it's for children, for friends or for peers at work. We may not realise that at the time.
Having said this, there are skills that don't come naturally to everyone and that we either gain through life experience (such as self-awareness) or need to learn through effort (such as actively listening or networking).
How does being mentored benefit business owners specifically?
You gain a trusted guide who gives you a helping hand on your journey, whether that's looking at how your business can grow or pivot, overcoming challenges, or developing your skills to become a successful leader.
Small business owners often feel overwhelmed and potentially exhausted. A mentor can help break things down into components to help you make sense of things, prioritise and manage your energy.
They also challenge assumptions, identify blind spots, help you initiate action and hold you accountable. Longer term, this helps you build or regain and sustain confidence.
With a mentor, you'll get support and encouragement, a champion and an advocate. You'll have a sounding board, someone who helps you think things through and offers suggestions. And you receive help to gain new perspectives and explore new ideas and opportunities.
And personally, what do you get out of mentoring?
I'm motivated by expansion, learning and growth, and I see evolving and learning as the key objectives of experience. This means I'm excited to learn and expand my knowledge across new industries or functions. So with every new mentee from a different sector, I'll learn something new about the person and the area they work in.
What's the best thing about being a mentor, and what's the biggest challenge?
I love creating and facilitating the space where ideas are exchanged, insights are born, and dreams, visions, missions and strategies become reality. What drives me is to see people inspired and take creative action to make possible what first appeared impossible. To make that mark in the world, to deliver value to their clients or beneficiaries.
The biggest challenge is setting a goal. Often, the goal set at the start of the mentoring turns out not to be the real one. The mentee and I might only realise that when we dig deeper into the sessions. This is why a continuous review of the main goal, potentially breaking it down into smaller objectives or refining it as you go along, can be useful.
What are your hopes for the Help to Grow: Management Course?
I understand charities aren't eligible to join the programme, as they aren't seen as functioning as businesses. However, there are strong similarities and overlaps between running a business and running a charity and the knowledge and expertise needed. The Help to Grow: Management Course would be as vital for charities as it is for other businesses.
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.