‘Buddying’ And The Business Odyssey 

Published on 08 November, 2023 | Melanie Hadwin

It’s fair to say that the last decade or so has not necessarily been easy for Britain’s business community.

Having rebounded from recession, companies have found themselves confronted by the prospect first of Brexit and then by a pandemic.

However, entrepreneurs are nothing if not resilient and resourceful.

That much is clear from recent figures on corporate life compiled by the House of Commons’ Library, which showed that 99 per cent of the 5.5 million private businesses in the UK are small-to-medium-sized enterprises (https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06152/).

Furthermore, just over one-third of all turnover recorded by the private sector (£1.41 trillion) during 2022 was generated by companies with fewer than 50 staff.

Nevertheless, it can sometimes prove difficult for businesses to know how best to keep making a positive difference capable of achieving growth for themselves, their employees and – importantly – the clients or customers.

That’s perhaps especially true in times when a rise in overheads might make additional recruitment difficult.

How best, then, to address the realisation that sticking to the same methods can reduce productivity over time.

One solution is mentoring.

The role of mentor actually dates from classical Greek literature and the name of a character in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ but has taken on a very modern and important role.

It is referred to in different ways by different people or organisations but, in practice, it means the same thing.

Put simply, it provides support for at every level of an organisation, encourages progression and can help to facilitate growth.

It offers a broader perspective or sounding board, allowing open, unhindered discussion and identifying areas where organisations or their staff can develop as well as exploring how that might best be achieved.

In doing so, it helps ensure that improvement in output or people’s careers is consistent across an organisation rather than confined to isolated pockets, so creating a cohesive experience for all.

Mentoring enables staff at all levels to benefit from the wisdom of more experienced individuals.

Those benefits are not purely theoretical. I write as someone who has progressed thanks to the input of mentors and as part of a firm which places great emphasis on it.

Only last month, Hall Brown’s Managing Partner, James Brown, penned an article for Business Desk expanding on his conviction about the virtues of what he described as “the knowledge cascade” (https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/northwest/news/2121338-the-generation-gain-career-development-and-the-knowledge-cascade).

Last year, three-quarters of the more than 800 businesses nationwide who took part in a survey on mentoring concluded that it had been instrumental to their growth (https://a.storyblok.com/f/102007/x/ead24d2fe4/mentoring-matters-report.pdf).

The report which resulted also demonstrated the variety of ways in which mentors are found.

Personal recommendations accounted for the largest single proportion (33 per cent), while professional bodies (19 per cent) and even competing businesses (13 per cent) also played a part.

I believe that what is common to all these sources and to the success of any mentoring scheme is preparation.

What arrangements – if any – are currently in place and what are the aims or objectives of any such initiative? How is the mentoring to take place: in-person or remote, given the technological advances in recent years?

Are there going to be any associated printed or digital materials produced to provide guidance away an individual’s session with a mentor? Will the scheme comply with any regulatory requirements?

Once all of those things have been thought or talked through with an outside mentor, advisor or a working group of colleagues, it is time to proceed and communicate what has been introduced and why.

It might sound contradictory but stopping and taking stock can represent a significant step forward for firms both large and small, particularly those which have concerned themselves up to that point merely with creating sufficient momentum to get – and keep – going.

Even so, if managed correctly, it can mean the difference between standing still or remaining vital well into the future – an attractive and viable place for people fortunate enough to already be within it and a desirable place for those who aren’t but want to take their careers forward.

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