Real support: How a mentoring programme can help your business grow
A mentoring programme can be a brilliant way for business owners and subject-matter experts to build a stronger profile in their sector.
It’s also a valuable tool for businesses to nurture its employees and provide support from experts working in the same sector, all at little or no cost to the businesses involved.
The Business Finance Guide caught up with Carrie Wootten, co-founder of the Rise mentoring programme, a free, six-month programme to support women working in, or aspiring to work in, the UK’s broadcast technology sector.
Hot on the heels of her winning the National Women’s Mentoring Award at the National Mentoring Awards, here’s what Carrie had to say;
“Mentoring is such an incredible thing both for mentors and mentees – and there are mentoring schemes available in almost every industry and sector. For businesses, giving employees the opportunity to be mentored by someone outside their organisation really shows that they are invested in that person’s career.
There’s also plenty of evidence to show that this in turn has a positive impact on the business’s financial health and prospects for growth”.
We quizzed Carrie on the Rise programme and how mentoring can help business growth, regardless of size or sector.
1. What is mentoring?
Carrie: Mentoring is all about people with experience, often those later in their careers, who are able to look back with hindsight on the decisions made by their younger selves, and give useful, constructive support, advice and direction to a mentee. They are there to champion and challenge the individual to ensure the Mentee reaches their desired goal.
2. What can businesses achieve from participating in a mentoring programme?
Carrie: Mentoring schemes are beneficial for both mentor and mentee, and typically for the mentee’s employer too.
For the mentee’s employer, not only do their staff receive free support (mentoring programmes are typically sponsored, and so free to join), but they are also seen to be investing in the next generation. They will help mentees gain skills and expertise from outside the company that they would not otherwise have access to, helping the business grow.
For the mentor, it’s largely about giving something back – but it also helps them to get a new perspective from the next generation. They also get the opportunity to build their own peer network too, through meeting other Mentors within their sector.
For the mentee, very often, and particularly in an industry with a strong gender bias, it’s about building resilience and self-confidence, as well as building their career trajectory and where they see their career paths developing.
They receive industry opportunities as a result of the programme – speaking on panels and delivering keynotes, for example, which all helps to address these areas of need.
Last year, one mentee received a promotion, for example, but with no pay rise. With the help of her mentor, she went back to her employer not once, not twice, but three times, until they agreed to pay her the same as her male counterpart. For her, the support of her mentor was invaluable.
3. What advice would you give to someone looking for a mentoring scheme for their own employees, or for themselves?
Carrie: Do your research. If there is an industry body responsible for your sector, make enquiries there first, as mentoring is usually about a career in a specialist industry. And even if there is no formal scheme available in your own industry, think about your extended network.
As well as industry-specific mentoring, there are mentoring schemes available for students, recovering addicts and people trying to get back in to work.
Mentoring really is one of the most beneficial things, both for business and for society in general.
4. How did you get the idea for the Rise mentoring programme?
Carrie: Rise is all about creating advocacy for women in broadcast technology. There’s a recognised gender imbalance issue in this sector, and both I and Sadie Groom, Rise’s co-founder, are passionate about addressing this.
For us, it’s about companies within the sector understanding that when they address this gender imbalance, it typically leads to them developing new products and services, and in turn, to business growth and ROI back to the company. This isn’t unique to broadcast– many sectors, from manufacturing to technology, construction to professional services, all face the same challenges and opportunities when looking to help their businesses grow.
5. How does the Rise scheme work?
Carrie: We already have a bank of mentors from last year, all of whom have signed up again, as well as a few more who volunteered their time this year.
Mentees have to complete an application form and we also meet some for an informal interview. This year, we’ve capped the number of mentees at 23, as we know that this is a good number for the Mentees to build solid and long-lasting relationships with each other as they continue into their careers after the programme has finished.
The scheme lasts 6 months and mentees meet up each month, as well as meet their Mentor and of course attend industry events together
Mentoring for entrepreneurs
As well as being able to offer mentoring to employees, every business owner and entrepreneur can benefit from it too – whether from a former boss, family member, network connection, or new contact. For those entering a new sector, the advice, connections and support that a mentor can give can be invaluable.
There are many ways in which an entrepreneur can get access to mentoring. Currently, there are 15,000 business mentors trained via the Government-funded Get Mentoring project (2012) who have all committed to giving one hour of their time once a month for 2 years.
To find out more, visit Mentorsme.
In many cases, mentors offer free advice with further payable services should you wish to take them up
6. What does the Rise scheme entail?
Carrie: In theory, mentees have just two hours per month with their mentor, which is not a lot. The reality is that often there are multiple calls and emails between mentor and mentee, with many mentors giving substantially more time. The mentees lead the scheme – it’s important that they drive the agenda with their mentor so that they get the most value from the time they spend together.
The scheme provides opportunities for both mentors and mentees to expand their networks and make new connections, leading to potential new business prospects.
For the mentee, the scheme allows them to improve their communications skills and develop a clear career strategy – giving them the confidence to make changes in their existing or prospective businesses.
Each mentee gives a presentation to the wider group throughout the six months about their job role, career path and aspirations. Towards the end of the programme this also includes what they have learned and achieved through the six months.
For more information on the benefits of getting advice, whether that’s mentors, business advisors or even competitors, read our Hypermotive article where the co-founder shares his 6 top tips for small business owners.