Help to Grow: Management – Meet the mentor, Susanne Harrison
Posted: Tue 3rd 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 Susanne Harrison, one of the voluntary mentors involved with the course. Susanne, who is based in Falkirk, Scotland, shares her experiences of mentoring and gives her thoughts on the advantages mentoring can bring to anyone who owns and runs a business.
Can you summarise your professional background and career up to this point?
I have over 20 years of experience in strategy, leadership and management, and coaching. That includes planning and implementing change and improving how organisations perform in terms of their people, resources and services.
I've worked with a range of clients, many of whom are senior leaders in large organisations – headteachers, senior managers, business owners and directors, and senior teams. My focus is always to help people develop their personal awareness, capacity and capabilities so they can achieve personal, business and team goals. I particular emphasise leadership skills and pricing with confidence.
I've managed change for a number of years in the public and private sectors, including several years in the public sector helping to reduce costs. Over the past 12 years, I've been supporting owners and directors of SMEs, and in my current role I've extended my skillset to coach clients to price with confidence in order to increase profits.
I'm a member of the Association of Business Mentors, an accredited executive coach with the Association for Coaching, and I'm certified with the Institute of Leadership and Management. I've delivered training and coaching with the Chamber of Commerce, Business Gateway and most recently a programme supported by Scottish Enterprise.
What made you want to become a mentor to business owners?
I've learned a lot in my career and on my business journey, and I've also made a few mistakes on the way. I have a desire to be useful too. So sharing my experience, using my coaching skills and being useful is very rewarding.
What do you look for in a mentee?
I ask myself three questions. First, can I and the mentee build a rapport and work together? Second, can I be of use to them – in other words, do I have relatable, useful experience or knowledge that they'd find helpful? And third, do they want to work with me?
What attributes and characteristics does a good mentor have?
You need the ability to listen very well, to ask the mentee useful and timely questions, to 'meet them where they are', to hold them accountable, and to encourage and support them on their journey.
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
Does it take a specific type of person to be a good mentor?
I think there are some people who are absolute naturals at mentoring. Then there are others (like me) who thrive on helping other people and who are motivated to learn and practise the skills needed.
There are also people who maybe have too little experience at the moment to be good mentors, but who in time could be great. And then there are those people who wouldn't make a good mentor because they don't stop talking long enough to be able to listen to anyone else.
How does mentoring benefit business owners specifically?
I think the benefits of mentoring vary depending on the individual, and it's best to ask the mentee this question. But here are some of the most common benefits:
Having time to think and talk with someone who really listens and pays attention to what you're saying – I don't think you can overestimate the power of being the centre of someone's undivided attention.
Being able to get another perspective on a matter or getting something off your chest – being the boss can be a lonely place and having a mentor can make it seem a bit less lonely.
Having someone hold you accountable – in all the challenges of business, it can be hard to focus on building the business. A mentor can help you do that and prioritise actions.
What do you get out of mentoring personally?
Mentors learn from their mentees too, plus it's hugely rewarding to be useful to someone else and watch them develop and thrive, whether that's personally or in business. And it's always great to meet new people.
What's the best thing about being a mentor, and what's the biggest challenge?
I absolutely enjoy meeting new people, making connections, learning about their business journeys, and building relationships.
I put in a lot of time and research for every mentee I work with to make sure they get the most out of every hour with me. I personally get to learn a lot about different industries as a result, which I find to be a very enriching experience overall.
However, I find that the biggest challenge in mentoring is to have to learn to not carry the weight of your mentee's success on your own shoulders. You become emotionally attached to your mentee's business and story at large, but it's important to remain aware that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. It's down to the mentee to take action.
What are your hopes for the Help to Grow: Management Course?
I hope the business owners taking part can learn new skills that they can apply in business. I also hope their mentoring relationship is a positive experience that inspires them to move forward, and that they get to see the difference that mentoring can make. Perhaps that will make then want to mentor other people themselves in the future.
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, Energy & Industrial Strategy.