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Be the Business launches new national mentoring programme for ambitious SMEs: Mentoring for Growth

Mentor programme
Business mentoring has been proven to have an overwhelmingly positive impact

A new nationwide mentoring programme has launched, pairing senior figures from some of the UK’s biggest companies with ambitious SME leaders.

Following a successful pilot phase in Greater Manchester and Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Mentoring for Growth is now being made available in two additional regions, beginning with London and the North East of England.

New research commissioned by Be the Business found that 71 per cent of small business leaders have never had a business mentor. However, those who had been mentored were very positive about the experience.

  • 59 per cent stated it helped them think strategically about their business
  • 28 per cent gained advice on how to get the most out of employees
  • 28 per cent implemented new business processes implemented as a direct result
  • 31 per cent changed their leadership style approach
  • Only nine per cent stated that having a mentor did not make a difference to their business

Mentor: an experienced and trusted advisor

Thirteen leading companies (Accenture, Amazon, BAE Systems, Be the Business, BT, Cisco, EY, GSK, the John Lewis Partnership, KPMG, McKinsey, Siemens UK and Sharing in Growth) have already signed up to provide over 130 mentors of a calibre seldom accessed by small business leaders. The programme is led by regional Growth Hub partners, which have great local knowledge and have developed a rigorous process to match prospective mentees with the best possible mentor. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, welcomed the programme in his speech to the Conservative Party conference earlier this month.

Mentees will benefit from expert support and advice over a twelve-month period to help them improve the productivity of their firms. Mentors will offer their personal expertise, inspiration and practical advice on a one-to-one basis to help firms overcome any potential barrier to growth. The programme also benefits mentors who are exposed to ambitious and growing small firms.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of Be the Business, said: “Mentoring is a proven way to help ambitious leaders become even more successful, and with Mentoring for Growth, some of the UK’s leading businesses are lending their experience. The feedback from our pilots in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands has been fantastic, so I am delighted that many more SMEs will be able to benefit from being mentored.”

Business secretary Greg Clark commented: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy which is why our modern Industrial Strategy is building the environment that ensures they continue to thrive.

“Mentoring for Growth delivered fantastic results during its pilot phase and is a great example of what can be achieved when large businesses share their insight with our small businesses to improve their productivity and help them grow.”

Tim Pile, chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, added: “GBSLEP has supported Mentoring for Growth to ensure that emerging business leaders across Greater Birmingham have the right skills and guidance to develop their companies – helping to drive sustainable economic growth.

“Our team at GBSLEP matched mentors and mentees based on their business objectives, knowledge and skills. We really value the high level of participation from our mentors, who shared invaluable expertise with SMEs wanting to maximise their growth potential. Early indications are that the pilot has been incredibly positive, with everyone gaining a great deal from the experience.”

Regis Simard, resident for pharma supply chain at GSK, said: “Our mentors have been delighted to share their experience with some fantastic SMEs. It’s really a two-way street, with our mentors getting as much back as they give. “

Liz Smith, MD of LG Davis and a mentee in the pilot programme, said: “The big thing about being mentored is that it forced me to take a step back from the day to day of my business and think strategically. It made a real difference to have someone to bounce ideas off and talk through how to turn my ambition for LG Davis into a reality.”

Mentoring for Growth is just one of Be the Business’ programmes to encourage businesses to address the UK’s productivity crisis by facilitating collaboration between big corporations and key decision makers, owners and MDs from SME organisations. An open and honest exchange of ideas, expertise and experiences helps shape the future direction an SME might take and provides important small business insights that mentors are able to take back into their own companies.

Tony Danker, chief executive at Be the Business, said: “Figures continue to suggest that strong, dynamic and effective leadership is the key to unlocking up to £130bn for the UK economy. This work could not be more vital. Mentoring for Growth is a crucial part of Be the Business’ portfolio of opportunities for ambitious SMEs to learn from some of the UK’s most productive companies, inspiring a productivity revolution from the grassroots up. It’s also a fantastic experience for our mentors who tell us it has been really inspiring to work with dynamic SMEs.”

Some 36 mentors supporting 42 mentees in Greater Manchester and Greater Birmingham and Solihull have already proved the benefits of the programme in the six-month pilot scheme.

The new national expansion will start by opening the scheme up to a further 200 mentees who will go through the process of finding the right mentor for them, after which a year-long relationship will start. The programme will continue to expand during 2019 and beyond with thousands more joining as the scheme spreads across the UK.

One of the most powerful parts about Mentoring for Growth is the network of like-minded and experienced business leaders it creates. For mentors there are “connect and collaborate” calls every six weeks, a way for mentors to share how their conversations have been going. There will also be quarterly “knowledge sharing” events, where pairings from around the UK come together. The use of mentoring is all part of Be the Business’ effort to encourage businesses to share what works with each other. Through learning from their peer group, business leaders throughout Britain will be better equipped to deal with the constantly-evolving set of challenges they face as small and medium-sized companies.

Arunima Dhar, advanced manufacturing programme lead at GSK and mentor, summed it up by saying: “There is some very serious value to having mentors from external companies. Each company has its own culture and its own perspective. If you’re in a company or an organisation for a long period of time you get ingrained in that way of thinking. To get an external perspective is fantastic because they don’t necessarily think the same way you do, and that fresh perspective offers a better sounding board for new ideas and ways of working.”

Companies wanting to take part should either contact their local LEP or Growth Hub or find out more through our dedicated Mentoring for Growth programme page.

Contact the Greater Manchester GC Growth HubGreater Birmingham and Solihull GBSLEP, London Growth Hub or North East Growth Hub to begin your Mentoring for Growth journey.

Research undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Be the Business. 2,025 SME managers were interviewed between 8 and 19 October 2018.

Hear why business mentoring is more than just a talking shop

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