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Standing on the shoulders of giants

27th May, 2016 No Comments

Silhouette of a android robot head with construction crane and machinery against a fiery skyscape, for the concept of reconstruction of mindset

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” Isaac Newton.

Pause for a moment and think about your business. Maybe things are going along nicely; the orders are coming in, customers are satisfied and the staff must be okay as they aren’t complaining. You are doing a great job – well done you!

When you are the boss, who do you talk to about the next step, your vision, and your plans? Being in charge can be a lonely place and even the most self-assured person can sometimes waiver.

You are in a strong position, but maybe it’s time to consider raising the bar further, upping your game, getting ahead of the rest. It is very easy to do what you have always done, especially if it’s working. To be the best however, may require a bit of support. Usain Bolt is a fantastic athlete, but he still has someone working with him to ensure his optimum performance. He described ‘the times when you want to doubt yourself’ and the value of the support from his mentor. You may be a fantastic operator but could you benefit from the wisdom of mentor to drive you further forward?

True mentoring has amazing business and personal benefits. Not to be confused with an advisor or a counsellor, the right mentor will not tell you how things should be done but will inspire, share wisdom and reinforce your self-belief. There is a real benefit in connecting with someone who may have met similar challenges and who can save you time by sharing their story, perhaps stopping you from making the same mistake as they did. Another powerful benefit that emerges from the mentor/mentee relationship is access to the mentor’s personal networks, which can be invaluable – in businesses the ‘know who’ can be as important as the ‘know how’.

The trick is in finding the right mentor, chemistry is everything. You need to be very clear about expectations from both sides, avoiding any potential conflicts of interest. A mentor should be prepared to share experience freely and voluntarily and this relationship takes time to build. It is a challenge, but there are some fantastic examples around. The UK is packed with some very talented caring business people who are happy to share their wisdom and experience.

You’ve got nothing to lose; you could grow your business and develop yourself in ways that you have not considered. All it takes is investment in time, a leap of faith and the rewards could be significant.

Written by Carole White, Chief Executive, TEDCO Business Support delivering business support in the North East

Why use a Mentor?

20th May, 2016 No Comments

Businessman And Businesswoman Meeting In Modern Office
Starting a new business is full of challenges, opportunities and risks, and is a journey we embark on with trepidation and the hope that it will all work out OK in the end! Investing one’s own resources and/or borrowing comes with a degree of risk of failure which we should do our best to avoid, or at least reduce to a minimum.

Using an experienced mentor can be one way of helping us learn and develop new skills as well as get some constructive feedback on what we are attempting to do. Working for yourself can often be very different from working in a larger company. It can be lonely; it will almost certainly mean you have to work much harder than you probably would for someone else. So it can be stressful and if you haven’t anticipated all the things that could happen you may well end up regretting putting yourself in debt for no good reason.

The obvious answer is to spend some time on the ‘ homework’ trying to figure out if there really is a business to be done. Time and effort spent on researching your market place before you invest serious amounts of money will be well rewarded. Most new business owners do not do enough of this, thinking they have a good idea and customers will flock to their door! Probably not!

As well as preparing a thorough business plan having a mentor assist you to think through your idea can be invaluable. Using a mentor is a means of accelerating your learning by utilising the skills of a seasoned veteran who has been there and done that, probably several times over and made more mistakes than they will ever admit. This can be likened to an apprenticeship, where you observe the master, execute your tasks under supervision and gather feedback, gradually building knowledge which eventually results in mastery! Good performance in many companies suggests this means of investment pays off well. So why not use this experience when setting up a new venture?

A new business means you will take on roles you were not prepared for nor have knowledge about. These demands require new talents and, in the words of one well known executive coach, “What got you here won’t get you there.” (Dr. Marshall Goldsmith)

Mentoring is not the same as coaching. Executive coaches are often superb at providing skills upgrades and feedback on specific issues, but few will have actually done the job themselves. Mentors should be role models, who can offer their experience, wisdom and networks that are highly relevant to the problems in hand. Their experience does not have to be industry specific, but they should have relevant experience that the new entrepreneur can understand so that they have every confidence in the mentors abilities to help. This helps to build trust between mentee and mentor which over time will develop into a strong relationship separate from family and friends who don’t necessarily give you the most honest feedback!

Regular sessions with a mentor should be planned and entered on to the calendar of both mentee and mentor, giving the mentee the knowledge that any difficult topic can be discussed at the next meeting. The format should be driven by current business events with the mentee setting the agenda, and the mentor using their knowledge to illustrate similar circumstances elsewhere and tell stories about their experiences. There is a lot of evidence regarding the power of relevant storytelling, and done well it can greatly accelerate your ability to survive.

Written by Mike Gibbs, NBV Business Advisor, Mentor, and Coach

NBV Solutions Ltd is a Cavendish Enterprise partner delivering support to start up and growing businesses in the East Midlands


John Mitchell, Chief Executive, Enterprise First

Read All About It!

30th December, 2015 No Comments

book on the desk against books

Recently Amazon announced they are opening a real bookshop, with plans to open more. It was a bit of a surprise to many, but I’m sure they have their reasons. It did though get me thinking about my recent reading habits which have a business focus.

If you are starting a business, running a business, or want to develop your business career, you can improve your performance and increase your chances of future success by learning from the experiences of others. I can’t think of a better way to do this than read a book. It’s portable, always there, you can dip in and out, and with e-readers can be read anywhere, at any time, on multiple platforms.

For me, it’s not about the textbook stuff, or those succinct checklists, but a book that tells a story, based on real life. I want to know about the mistakes made as well as the successes. Is starting a business successfully or turning one around, based on sound business strategies, innovation, gut feeling, risk taking, luck, who you employ etc, and how does it all fit in with the ups and downs of life in general?

There are literally tens of thousands of books listed in the ‘business’ category at Amazon. Whilst I love nothing better than browsing through a bookshop on the high street, with platforms like Amazon, there is the distinct advantage that you can read reviews from those that have bought them, can view lists of books with similar content, and with e-books start reading immediately. There is though nothing to stop you, having chosen your read, to placing an order for a physical book from your local bookshop.

Hidden within the business books section are some real gems, books that do tell a real-life business story, provide a different perspective of well-known entrepreneurs and businesses in the news. Some are better than the usual thrillers and horror stories, with some you just couldn’t make it up! Above all you will learn from the business experience of others.

For new readers of business books, a good place to start would be with the celebrity entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, and the ex-dragons. Building a restaurant business is pretty tough too, so there are also good books by celebrity chefs. You will be spoilt for choice as many have written follow-ups or multiple books on similar topics.

Outside of these my own favourites are:

Best Served Cold: The Rise, fall, and Rise again of Malcolm Walker (Iceland)

easyLand: how EasyJet conquered Europe

Barbarians at the Gate

Enron – the Rise and Fall

American Icon

Hubris: How HBOS wrecked the best bank in Britain

The last four are stories about large corporations – but the issues raised in these can still provide an insight into the world of small business – there are just more people involved and a few extra 0’s on the figures.

Finally if you are of a certain age with fond memories of the British products and brands we used to know so well there is: Surrender – How British industry gave up the ghost.

Once you have satisfied your appetite with business books, the next area you could turn to is the politics section, particularly books about those in power and how government works. Most of these do fall into the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ category!

Happy reading!

Written by John Mitchell, CEO, Enterprise First


If reading some of John’s recommended books inspires you to start your own business, contact us to find out if we can support your business through Start & Grow.

Do you have any favourite inspirational business books?  Let us know the title and your thoughts below…..

Ensure your Biggest Cost is your Greatest Asset

14th April, 2015 No Comments

“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

As a business owner or leader your staff is one of your biggest costs and potentially is one of your best assets if you create an engaged culture amongst your employees and sub-contractors to such an extent that they do things beyond what is expected of them.

Close-up Photo Of Businesspeople Holding Jigsaw Puzzle

Poor internal communication in a business organisation leads to a lack of company direction and understanding of core messages.

Effective communication needs the buy in of all members in the organisation, from staff, and office managers to boardroom executives.

Do your team really understand the core values?

Do you communicate with each other effectively?

How valued do you think your people feel?

What are your key drivers?

How effectively do you work as a team?

Perhaps it’s time to take time out and take stock of where you are and most importantly where you are going.

This will mean investment of time, but as people are your most valuable resource it could be money well spent.

It may be that your staff feel a little jaded and lethargic, if so it’s time for a spot of invigoration!  Take the lead and energise and refocus your team. Take positive steps to move people (including you) out of their comfort zone.  The new financial year is an excellent opportunity to provide a clear steer on your business goals and the standards and behaviours you expect.

Spending time analysing both the positives and the tensions in your team can be enlightening and productive.  Make sure that everyone is on board and listen to their views and ideas.

Give individuals in your organisation the opportunity to reflect upon and discuss your business and ambitions.

This approach to internal communication and employee engagement gives you a much better result compared to conventional top down strategies. It ensures a clear understanding of your vision, values and mission and spreads a high level of commitment to your brand and across your workforce. Make sure that you are committed to giving support to anyone who needs it, whether that means formal training, coaching or perhaps a bit of confidence building.

By engaging staff with vision and values they can apply them in their day-to-day work, it is a fact that organisations that have a strong communications function outperform those that don’t.

A highly engaged team or employee will consistently deliver beyond expectations and will have a sense of belonging or a strong bond with the company or a brand. This creates a ripple effect that results in a great atmosphere in the organisation and real buy in from your staff, giving you competitive advantage and bottom-line benefits.

In the words of Virgil, “they can because they think they can.”

Written by Carole White, Chief Executive

TEDCO Business Support Ltd




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