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Mentoring gap could jeopardise UK growth

In the same survey that revealed how small business owners struggle with cash flow, Sage has identified a worrying lack of mentoring for UK SMEs. With businesses that receive the lowest amount of mentoring proving twice as likely to go bust in the first five years, seeking the support of a sector stalwart should be a priority for all.

Two thirds of Sage respondents believe they would be more likely to expand with the help of a mentor. This figure sits rather uncomfortably next to the mere 22 per cent of respondents who are actively seeking support from an industry expert. Instead, many directors are turning to friends and family with no experience of running a business.

Official figures
Recent figures from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) further confirm the demand for an SME mentoring scheme. It reports that 90 per cent of firms that work with a mentor say it has a positive impact on business, and that typically translates to bigger cash flow with 44 per cent of mentored firms reporting an increase in turnover.

Finding your way
“Businesses that do not have access to, or choose not to make use of business mentoring are at a disadvantage,” said Amanda Jobbins, Group CMO of Sage. “In our information-rich age it can be difficult to know if you are doing the right thing. Mentors can play a big role in helping young businesses to navigate the sea of advice on offer.”

How a mentor can help
Of key concern to the 1,110 SMEs surveyed were controlling costs, effective marketing and expanding their customer base – all areas with which an industry expert can assist. Jobbins said the gap between businesses who understand the value of business mentoring and those who take advantage of it can be partly explained by poor information:

“We need to educate start-ups and small businesses about the benefits of mentoring and where to find them. According to a survey of our customers, nearly a quarter of UK businesses highlighted a shortage of information on mentoring as a barrier to its widespread adoption.”

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