Why every entrepreneur should have a mentor…

During the last year, two friends of mine have set up successful start-ups. We met recently and the conversation soon turned to their experiences and how they survived in such a tough economy.

As you might expect, the issue of funding came up for both new and growing businesses. And surprisingly, both agreed that this had not been a major worry for them. They had both set up their businesses during the recession knowing that they would get very little, if any, funding. They self-funded the start-up costs and built business models that ensured tight control of their finances, had the potential to turn a profit quickly and allowed for organic growth.

One point both mentioned more than once was mentoring. Their two key pieces of advice for anyone thinking of setting up on their own were, “never be too big to ask someone for their thoughts, regardless of age or background”, and “don’t necessarily expect help from obvious places, but be prepared to receive it from unexpected quarters”.

Last Monday evening, I went along to the second Manifesto camp hosted by Enterprise UK. If you read Richard Cree’s blog in Director last week, you won’t be surprised to learn that for over two hours the ideas flew around the room. The calibre was high and even Mark Prisk MP, shadow minister for business and enterprise made an appearance. The main purpose was to discuss the Enterprise Manifesto and what can be done to support entrepreneurs in the UK.

A lot was covered, but as with my two friends, mentoring kept cropping up. Paul Birch, co-founder of BEBO.com suggested that a national mentoring competition be established to reward the best business mentors and encourage mentoring. Mark Prisk raised the issue of whether mentoring would be best encouraged through a professional or volunteering route. Natalie Campbell of Enterprise UK suggested that a recognition and reward scheme like vinspired have put in place could be established for mentoring. Mentoring Ambassadors and case studies of successful mentors were also suggested as ways to widen the appeal and understanding of being a mentor and of using a mentor.

Could mentoring be the silver bullet to support entrepreneurs? If so, what can be done to encourage both mentors to put themselves forward and for entrepreneurs to have access to them? Join the debate and put forward your ideas www.director.co.uk/manifesto.

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