By Leona Barr Jones, Barr Jones Associates
With recent figures showing that around three million businesses in the UK operate as family businesses and two in five private sector jobs are now being provided by family businesses, it is clear that working within privately run SMEs is very much on the increase. Family businesses tend to be more loyal to their staff and opportunities to learn on the job are greater.
A key benefit of a family run business, is that there is often a culture of mentoring and an emphasis on strong business values. Here I look at the benefits of having a good mentor on board when developing a growing business:
Having a strong business mentor is often the make or break for a growing business. Having someone to talk through your business issues with and can help motivate and empower you can really help your business fly. Here are my five top tips to finding a good business mentor:
· Explore your own networks first: Consider family, friends, former bosses or inspiring business contacts that you already know, in the first instance. Pick people whose judgement you admire and respect and approach them with a view to them becoming your business mentor. Make sure you pick people who you trust are going to be honest with you and can give you an external view of your business.
If you work in a family business, there may be an opportunity to use a relative as a business mentor. Just make sure that you have similar business ideals and that you won’t put your personal relationship under strain if you take this route.
· Ask your network for recommendations: You may find that a friend of a friend is in the same sort of business as you and would be a perfect match. Ask the question on social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter to ensure that you spread your search as widely as possible. Explore every avenue in your own network before you start looking further afield. Ask your family for recommendations particularly if you work with them – they know you best and will be able to suggest good matches.
· Check out Government schemes to see if you qualify for support from a mentor: Organisations such as the Prince’s Trust can put you in touch with someone to give you business support if you are aged between 14 and 30. It is worth trying your local Chamber of Commerce and see if they run or keep lists of potential mentors. More Finally, schemes such as the Government’s Growth Vouchers programme are certainly worth applying for and can give you support in a few vital key areas such as finance and marketing.
· Target people you admire: Think about entrepreneurs that you admire or would love to work with and write to them. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain if they are interested in giving you support along the way. Draw up a hit list of your idea business mentors and make sure your letter is personalised to them and explains clearly why they are somebody you would like to work with.
· The key to any successful mentoring partnership is respect and the ability to get on together. You've got to click and you have to be able to have honest conversations about your business with each other. Above all you need to be able to communicate with each other and there needs to be trust and respect on both sides.