Making the most of a mentor

Enlisting the services of a mentor would appear to go against the grain for entrepreneurs. CFO of the Hakkasan Restaurant Network and successful serial entrepreneur Paul Deeming argues why that's not the case

For most entrepreneurs, starting a business means having the freedom to do things in their own way. Starting a business allows individuals the flexibility to run their businesses as they see fit. However, it can be an unforgiving game; where sometimes even great ideas fail for the simplest of reasons.

To reduce the risk, many entrepreneurs seek an outsider’s opinion in the form of a business mentor to get advice and support on difficult situations.

However gifted an entrepreneur thinks they are, more often than not there are hurdles to face that stretch their abilities – no individual is blessed with having a complete skillset.  Someone who might be highly capable in one area of business, for example service delivery, might not have the skills or temperament for other areas such as finance, recruitment or sales. An entrepreneur should play to their strengths and call in support in areas in which they feel less experienced. Getting help should not be a sign of weakness, but a display of dedication to the business and its success.

If you’re thinking of seeking out a mentor – what’s the best approach? Respect for your mentor is fundamental. A mentor’s role is not to spoon feed you and run your business, they are there to pass on their knowledge and wealth of experience. If you have a problem, the first thing you should do is to try and work it out yourself – a mentor will appreciate the effort you’ve made and either congratulate your achievement or coach you through it.

Many people think that the best time to get support from your chosen mentor would be once the business is up and running, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Finding a mentor should be one of the first things you do – mentors can be invaluable at getting a new business off the ground. Getting a mentor to come on board as early as possible means you can receive advice on vital decisions such as how to raise funds, the market opportunity and what the share structure of the business should be.

But what’s in it for the mentors? Today, business is more time-consuming than ever and the mentor/mentee relationship isn’t as hands-on as it used to be. Many business mentors give their time up for free, and taking on such a challenge is a big responsibility. It’s important that you get the most out of your relationship and, although you may not always agree on everything, it’s essential you listen to what they have to say – after all they have been through it themselves. Building a close relationship with your mentor and communicating regularly is key for your own confidence and success of the business.

Currently, I am mentoring two very different businesses – a web design company and a food delivery business. I get a kick out of helping people who are starting out and I love to see creative ideas turn into successful, commercial businesses. The enthusiasm and drive to make something work is truly inspiring. It’s the same when mentoring my own staff. Seeing them go on to open their own businesses or take up senior positions in other companies, using what I have been able to teach them, has been a career highlight. For me, there are few things more satisfying than seeing people grow.

In my opinion, mentors will start to become more popular and vital at uncovering the next generation of talent. The government is trying to focus on small businesses and start-ups to get the UK’s economy on the road to recovery, and business owners who have already walked in their shoes will become a key ingredient to helping others become successful.

Running a business provides both great and worrying times, but it’s not something you have to go through alone. Having a business mentor on board can help you create a business bigger and better than you may have ever considered and it can help you reach your business goals.

Paul Deeming

Paul Deeming ACA is a chartered accountant and finance director of Hakkasan Group and co-founder of the Ignite Group. 






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