Business mentors line-up to join national effort to support small firms

More than a thousand business leaders have signed up to ‘give back' and become part of a national network of voluntary mentors to support Britain’s SMEs as the UK braces for recession, according to small business support platform Enterprise Nation.

Business mentors line-up to help small firms (photo: Adobe)
Business mentors line-up to help small firms (photo: Adobe)

The impressive list includes top names from corporates like banking giant Santander, FTSE 100 telecoms firm Vodafone and leading flexible space provider WeWork, as well as hundreds of small business owners.

They have all signed up to the Government’s flagship business support programme Help to Grow: Management course and will receive training themselves to deliver mentoring support for firms on the management course.

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Norwich-based e-commerce innovator Nathan Lomax and co-founder of Quickfire Digital, said: “With a recession on the horizon, it’s really important to double down on the community and help businesses to thrive. It’s going to be a tough 12 to 18 months, but we must do all we can to help businesses come out shining the other end.

Business mentors sign up to the Government’s flagship business support programme - Help to Grow (photo: Adobe)

“When I first started at 17, I was lost. I didn’t know where to go. I was at a crossroads. I met a mentor called Neil Adams and he helped me grow both as a person and as a business owner. I want to do that for the next generation of leaders coming through.”

Emily Canino, founder of London-based independent lifestyle brand Doodlemoo, said: “When you support and mentor someone, you can also learn about yourself and the way that you’re doing things, so it can be beneficial for both.

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“Seeing someone’s journey from how they have evolved and how I can give back with what I’ve learned. I think it’s really exciting.”

John Baldwin, head of commercial clients, Santander UK, said: “It’s very rewarding when you have a connection with a business. You can act as a sounding board and see those ideas fulminating into different strategies the business might take and then reflect with the business owner on how you might have helped them. This covers things that have gone well and things that have gone not so well. So, being a mentor, you certainly learn along the way as well.

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“When you see that entrepreneur have a spark of an idea and they want to go for it, they’ve got that vision. And it’s really good to go with someone on that journey and try and to help in a little way.”

The Help to Grow: Management Course offers senior business leaders one-to-one support from a business mentor included in 50 hours of leadership and management training across 12 weeks, with the government covering 90 per cent of the costs involved. Training is delivered via a national network of 56 Business Schools.

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According to the latest Small Business Barometer from Enterprise Nation, around a quarter of firms (24 per cent) said they were already working with a mentor and of those 80 per cent rated their experience very good or excellent.

Emma Jones, founder of small business support platform Enterprise Nation, part of the consortium of businesses contracted to recruit volunteer mentors for the scheme, said: “It’s been so incredibly humbling to see high calibre leaders including hundreds of independent business owners, with the human strength and humility to step forward and offer their own time, experience, and knowledge to support the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.

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“The Help to Grow: Mentoring Course platform will allow businesses to find the perfect match for their business so they can start to put what they have learned into practice.”

Small Business Minister Jane Hunt MP said: “Seizing opportunity is what being a business leader is all about, and our Help to Grow: Management Course is giving entrepreneurs the chance to access the very best advice on how to innovate, reach new customers and boost profits.”

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A digital platform is using data and weighting technology to pair businesses with mentors based on region, sector, and mentoring support required. Mentors sign up on a voluntary basis and offer a commitment of 10 hours, over 12 weeks, plus time to engage in training offered by the Association of Business Mentors.

Once they have found a mentor that suits their requirements, the Help to Grow: Management Course participant will then use the platform to book in mentor sessions.

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In exchange for offering their time and experience, voluntary Help to Grow: Management Course mentors receive significant value in the form of industry recognised mentor training, access to qualified content, networking opportunities with other mentors, and the possibility to join a national effort aimed at supporting the growth of the UK economy by increasing small businesses’ productivity.

Principal lecturer and director of the University of Brighton's Help to Grow: Management Course, Dr Adam Jones, said: “The mentoring element of the course is one of the most important aspects for delegates. It means they have support from a 'critical friend' who can help them with their growth plan and sense check their long-term approach."

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Experienced entrepreneurs and trusted advisers are also signing up to be voluntary mentors including Herman Stewart, founder of Every Child Needs a Mentor, banking and fintech innovator Helene Panzarino, award-winning entrepreneur Chris Cole, founder of 40 Fathoms and ecommerce innovator Nathan Lomax who launched and quickly took Quickfire Digital to a £1m revenue business. Tim Hinton, Head, Corporate & Commercial Banking, Santander UK, said: “We are totally committed to supporting this national effort to help boost the growth of small businesses, not least through our talented and experienced employees acting as volunteer mentors.”

Led by business support group Newable and including Enterprise Nation and the Association of Business Mentors, the consortium has been appointed by the Government to develop a national network of business leaders and experts who will share their skills and experience with firms on the practical management training course.