Article
Written by Kady Potter
Posted on 10/06/2014

UK businesses benefit from closing the ‘mentoring gap’

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In yet more research highlighting the knowledge gaps between SMEs and larger UK businesses, almost nine out of ten UK respondents claim a mentor could help their company.

With repeated talk of reluctant lenders and dwindling access to capital, funding is still one of the most important aspects needed for a company to thrive. However, the importance of a mentor to business success is arguably as great, as research is repeatedly demonstrating.
 
Companies are aware they need a helping hand
A study by software maker Sage sought the opinions of over 11,000 small and medium-sized businesses in 17 countries. 1,200 of those were in the UK, and 89 per cent admitted that their success could be boosted with the support of a business mentor.
The number actually working with a mentor at present was significantly less – just 22 per cent. It’s been predicted that close to five million SMEs could capitalise on the chance of greater turnover, bringing millions more pounds to the UK economy.
 
Simpler risk management with the benefit of experience
It’s been claimed that, when the head of an SME is mentored by the owner of a larger company, that SME is twice as likely to remain in business for at least five years. So says the Federation of Small Businesses, which published those findings last year.
 
Further reports from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills corroborate that evidence, showing that nine out of ten mentees saw a positive impact on business. It also showed that almost double the number of mentored companies showed an increase in turnover compared to those who went it alone.
 
Support that’s more than financial
Sage is launching a new Business Navigators scheme precisely to bring mentors together, and the timing of the research results and the initiative’s launch deliberately coincide to raise awareness of the issues. Within the EU, Britain is considered a leader in providing business mentoring schemes, and mentors frequently offer their time and advice at no costs, yet uptakes are still relatively low.
 
The scheme is intended to gather potential business mentors in educating SMEs. They will advise on how to enter into and maintain a good mentoring relationship, and work to increase the understanding of how mentors benefit small and medium-sized companies.
 
Tips for successful business mentoring agreements
To conclude, Sage offers the following advice to SMEs seeking a mentor:
  • Pick an appropriate mentor. Business leaders are still more likely to discuss issues with someone they know and trust, regardless of whether that person is an expert in the company’s offering or industry.
  • Make expectations clear on both sides. The relationship should be beneficial for both mentor and mentee, and these goals need to be decided and approved early on.
  • Set boundaries and responsibilities. Both parties will have obligations, which must be upheld to maintain professionalism and good business practice.
  • Maintain trust, honesty and integrity. In a mentoring relationship, SME leaders continue to outwardly represent their business. A mentor will push the company to do more and achieve more, and that company needs to have faith – and speak up when in doubt.