26 October 2018
One of the questions I am asked the most is: “Who is your mentor?”
There is certainly a magic to having someone to look up to, to learn from, collaborate with and, in many ways, emulate. A mentor is incredibly valuable to anyone with a goal or an ambition.
Tomorrow marks National Mentoring Day. Reading that only a quarter of SMEs use a mentor is disappointing but it certainly doesn’t surprise me. When I was starting out, 25 years ago or more, there weren’t really the mentors to reach out to. Of course, there were successful business people, but it seemed more of a club that you could only get into if you were on the ‘inside’.
Now with networking groups, support associations and social media, it is significantly easier to meet other entrepreneurs and engage with people you aspire to emulate.
There is really no replacement for one-to-one advice and knowing that you have someone to turn to should you need a sounding board for a new idea or challenge. That’s one of the reasons we launched Tech Manchester. Tech Manchester is an organisation supporting the growth of tech and digital startups in Manchester and beyond. One of the key activities of this group – run by the extraordinary Trish Keating and funded by UKFast – is mentoring.
They have already trained up 120 mentors, supporting 114 startups through mentoring alone. It’s extraordinary to think that the initiative only launched in the summer of 2017.
Who is your mentor?
I never had a mentor. However, I reached out to as many other entrepreneurs as I could. I sought out people who were the very best in their game – be that business, sport, motivation or beyond. These people could be at the start of their career or seasoned professionals – each has a unique story to tell.
That journey led me all over the world to meet some remarkable characters. It’s something I continue to do to this day, often interviewing these people for my podcast series. Recent episodes include people like Jacqueline de Rojas, Gary Neville, Laura Bartlett and a young man called Tom Hunt.
It is worth noting that a mentor doesn’t mean someone who you see as ahead of you. There’s a lot to be learned from people who are in the early stages of their careers and from young people. Reverse mentoring is a growing trend in the business arena. This is bringing young people in to share their opinions on how you could run things differently. There’s always something you can learn from someone else.