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The majority of us become the Owner Manager of a business not as a result of some long held ambition but because it is the least distasteful option open to us at the time. Once you have started, you of course want to succeed. No matter how detailed your business plan (of course you wrote one didn’t you), you will encounter many unforeseen issues and problems along the way.

These days, the Internet will offer up plenty of free (and often sound) advice on how to tackle basic issues such as slow payment. But who do you talk to about your more intractable problems? Who do you ‘wind down’ with that you can trust or want to share your detailed business problems with? After all, the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ still applies.

You need someone who will understand the business issues from their own experience and who you can trust to maintain confidentiality. Your spouse or partner is probably not this person; they may not have the business experience or you may not want to burden them. Likewise, you may not want other family members or friends to know that all is not perfect in your business. Fellow business people may be helpful but you may not want to share commercially confidential information with them. For the same reasons, there are practical limits to what you may want to share with your staff.

Many of the world’s most successful business leaders work with mentors. In larger organisations part of a non-executive chairman’s role is often to mentor the chief executive. A small business does not need so formal a structure but can still benefit from working with a mentor. Research has shown that small business owner/managers that do work with a mentor are far less likely than average to fail. The majority of issues that a small business will face can be fixed provided that they are identified and addressed quickly enough. Working with a mentor need not be expensive, the right mentor should help you to achieve improvements in profit that far exceed his or her fees. You may even be lucky enough to find a ‘free’ mentor, but do make sure that their experience matches your needs and that you understand their motives.

A good mentor will not make business decisions for you. Their role is to help you to make the right decisions for your business by challenging your assumptions, suggesting alternative approaches and holding you to agreed milestones and performance indicators. Ultimately we all benefit from being accountable to someone.

In my own practice I focus on small businesses and particularly start-ups and companies that have been trading for less than two years. Although my fees are modest they are nevertheless often an issue at this stage in a company’s life. To help address this one of my first actions is to look at specific opportunities to reduce your existing costs, typically in the area of utilities, more general procurement and (if you have to trade in foreign currencies) the cost of exchange services. I make no charge for this exercise and it often turns up sufficient savings to make my monthly invoice affordable. It also helps to get our relationship started on the right footing.

The next step is a general review to help me understand the specifics of your business and identify any areas that need priority attention. Once the company is established on a stable footing we can settle into a routine that works for us both. Often this will mean a scheduled phone call for an hour or so at a specific time each week. This can be supplemented by a full day at your premises, or accompanying you to business meetings, when needed. Typically, I will end up averaging around 12 days per year with each client. Often there is some ‘front loading’ as we get to grips with immediate issues and come up with a plan of action. I am happy to average this effort out over a 12 month rolling contract to help with cash flow. Although based in the West Midlands, I am happy to work with clients anywhere in the UK.

The majority of us start our own business not as a result of some long held ambition but because it is the least distasteful option open to us at the time. Once you have started, you of course want to succeed. No matter how detailed your business plan (of course you wrote one didn’t you), you will encounter many unforeseen issues and problems along the way.

These days, the Internet will offer up plenty of free (and often sound) advice on how to tackle basic issues such as slow payment. But who do you talk to about your more intractable problems? Who do you ‘wind down’ with that you can trust or want to share your detailed business problems with? After all, the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ still applies.

You need someone who will understand the business issues from their own experience and who you can trust to maintain confidentiality. Your spouse or partner is probably not this person; they may not have the business experience or you may not want to burden them. Likewise, you may not want other family members or friends to know that all is not perfect in your business. Fellow business people may be helpful but you may not want to share commercially confidential information with them. For the same reasons, there are practical limits to what you may want to share with your staff.

Many of the world’s most successful business leaders work with mentors. In larger organisations part of a non-executive chairman’s role is often to mentor the chief executive. A small business does not need so formal a structure but can still benefit from working with a mentor. Research has shown that small business owner/managers that do work with a mentor are far less likely than average to fail. The majority of issues that a small business will face can be fixed provided that they are identified and addressed quickly enough. Working with a mentor need not be expensive, the right mentor should help you to achieve improvements in profit that far exceed his or her fees. You may even be lucky enough to find a ‘free’ mentor, but do make sure that their experience matches your needs and that you understand their motives.

A good mentor will not make business decisions for you. Their role is to help you to make the right decisions for your business by challenging your assumptions, suggesting alternative approaches and holding you to agreed milestones and performance indicators. Ultimately we all benefit from being accountable to someone.

In my own practice I focus on small businesses and particularly start-ups and companies that have been trading for less than two years. Although my fees are modest they are nevertheless often an issue at this stage in a company’s life. To help address this one of my first actions is to look at specific opportunities to reduce your existing costs, typically in the area of utilities, more general procurement and (if you have to trade in foreign currencies) the cost of exchange services. I make no charge for this exercise and it often turns up sufficient savings to make my monthly invoice affordable. It also helps to get our relationship started on the right footing.

The next step is a general review to help me understand the specifics of your business and identify any areas that need priority attention. Once the company is established on a stable footing we can settle into a routine that works for us both. Often this will mean a scheduled phone call for an hour or so at a specific time each week. This can be supplemented by a full day at your premises, or accompanying you to business meetings, when needed. Typically, I will end up averaging around 12 days per year with each client. Often there is some ‘front loading’ as we get to grips with immediate issues and come up with a plan of action. I am happy to average this effort out over a 12 month rolling contract to help with cash flow. Although based in the West Midlands, I am happy to work with clients anywhere in the UK.

The majority of us start our own business not as a result of some long held ambition but because it is the least distasteful option open to us at the time. Once you have started, you of course want to succeed. No matter how detailed your business plan (of course you wrote one didn’t you), you will encounter many unforeseen issues and problems along the way.

These days, the Internet will offer up plenty of free (and often sound) advice on how to tackle basic issues such as slow payment. But who do you talk to about your more intractable problems? Who do you ‘wind down’ with that you can trust or want to share your detailed business problems with? After all, the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ still applies.

You need someone who will understand the business issues from their own experience and who you can trust to maintain confidentiality. Your spouse or partner is probably not this person; they may not have the business experience or you may not want to burden them. Likewise, you may not want other family members or friends to know that all is not perfect in your business. Fellow business people may be helpful but you may not want to share commercially confidential information with them. For the same reasons, there are practical limits to what you may want to share with your staff.

Many of the world’s most successful business leaders work with mentors. In larger organisations part of a non-executive chairman’s role is often to mentor the chief executive. A small business does not need so formal a structure but can still benefit from working with a mentor. Research has shown that small business owner/managers that do work with a mentor are far less likely than average to fail. The majority of issues that a small business will face can be fixed provided that they are identified and addressed quickly enough. Working with a mentor need not be expensive, the right mentor should help you to achieve improvements in profit that far exceed his or her fees. You may even be lucky enough to find a ‘free’ mentor, but do make sure that their experience matches your needs and that you understand their motives.

A good mentor will not make business decisions for you. Their role is to help you to make the right decisions for your business by challenging your assumptions, suggesting alternative approaches and holding you to agreed milestones and performance indicators. Ultimately we all benefit from being accountable to someone.

In my own practice I focus on small businesses and particularly start-ups and companies that have been trading for less than two years. Although my fees are modest they are nevertheless often an issue at this stage in a company’s life. To help address this one of my first actions is to look at specific opportunities to reduce your existing costs, typically in the area of utilities, more general procurement and (if you have to trade in foreign currencies) the cost of exchange services. I make no charge for this exercise and it often turns up sufficient savings to make my monthly invoice affordable. It also helps to get our relationship started on the right footing.

The next step is a general review to help me understand the specifics of your business and identify any areas that need priority attention. Once the company is established on a stable footing we can settle into a routine that works for us both. Often this will mean a scheduled phone call for an hour or so at a specific time each week. This can be supplemented by a full day at your premises, or accompanying you to business meetings, when needed. Typically, I will end up averaging around 12 days per year with each client. Often there is some ‘front loading’ as we get to grips with immediate issues and come up with a plan of action. I am happy to average this effort out over a 12 month rolling contract to help with cash flow. Although based in the West Midlands, I am happy to work with clients anywhere in the UK.