Posted: Fri 13th Jan 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 Caroline Mitten, one of the voluntary mentors involved with the course. Caroline – who's based in Kent – talks about her strong belief in the positive aspects of mentoring and the advantages it can bring to all business owners.
Caroline, can you give us some insight into your professional background?
I've been fortunate to enjoy a varied career, spanning industries, capabilities and even markets with stints in the UK, the Middle East and North America.
Most recently, I've blended running my own business alongside my corporate role. Throughout this portfolio career, a focus on helping people realise opportunities has been a continuous thread.
What made you want to become a mentor to other business owners?
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.
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
What do you see as the main attributes and characteristics a good mentor should have?
First is a belief that the mentee is the expert in their own life. My role as a mentor isn't to persuade the mentee into my way of thinking but rather to help them build confidence in their own path.
Second is ruthless compassion – it's being truly authentic and not being afraid to challenge to help the mentee drive the best outcome.
Finally, a sense of enjoyment. I think mentoring can offer a lightness and a reminder to have fun, as it is easy to get lost in day-to-day challenges as a business owner.
Do you think anyone can be a mentor, or does it take a specific type of person?
I think everyone has something to offer as a mentor, whatever stage of life or career you're at. Getting really clear about the type of people you think you can add value to is important, as is building a solid practice around your mentoring, such as supervision or reflective practice.
How does mentoring benefit business owners specifically?
It can feel isolating as a business owner. Having a mentor can create a safe space to test out ideas or problem-solve before you decide on a course of action.
Mentoring can have a really broad reach – focusing on the business side but also on you as an individual. For example, honing your leadership style or achieving your personal goals.
And personally, what do you get out of mentoring?
Mentoring is such rewarding work. I've connected with a fantastic network of mentors through Enterprise Nation and received a scholarship for further study, helping me boost my own skills and capabilities.
What's the best thing about being a mentor, and what's the biggest challenge?
The best thing is seeing your mentee have that lightbulb moment, gaining a new perspective that helps them move forwards with whatever obstacle they're tackling.
The biggest challenge is time and energy commitments. When you have a busy schedule as a business owner, it's easy to forgo mentoring time in exchange for something that seems more pressing in the moment.
But for mentoring to be successful, it requires commitment and being willing to put on hold whatever is in flight at that point in time.
What are your hopes for the Help to Grow: Management Course?
It's a fantastic programme that has the opportunity to transform not just business owners but the organisations they run. I hope the value and lessons participants gain transpire into positive change across their people and organisations and help more and more people and businesses flourish.
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.