The Mentoring for Growth programme is a pilot project designed to support small businesses. It is a collabotation between the Scottish Borders Chambers of Commerce, the Scottish Borders Export Association and the Federation of Small Businesses. It takes place over eight monthly sessions in small groups of up to 6 businesses.
The objective of this programme is to work in peer groups to learn and share from each other. In the first monthly meeting we got to know each other, our respective businesses and goals for the future. Even though the path to achieving our goals wasn’t clear, being able to talk out loud was a great starting point.
Each month the mentoring for growth programme focused on a specific aspect of running a business, from finance and sales to strategy tools for SMEs, we covered a lot. To guide our discussions, the morning sessions were hosted by an expert in that sector. They presented each subject from their own perspective, based on their business experience. This gave us an insight into the approach of different businesses and an opportunity to ask questions along the way.
Business to Business
As the programme progressed, our group started to gel together. We set up a Facebook group where we share ideas and ask each other advice. We also went out for a couple of ‘working lunches’ which was good fun. Our group included 5 business owners, each from a different sector. Here’s a little bit about each of them.
Hannah Longmuir Artist
Hannah Longmuir, is a talented local artist who has been self employed for eight years. Hannah’s stunning pencil art focuses on nature and wildlife. Each piece begins as original artwork which is sold alongside prints, greetings cards, mugs and other lovely gifts. She started drawing as a hobby and has grown her business to sell online and via a wide range of national stockists.
Giles Etherington is a brand creation expert, his business Brand Satellite has a varied client base. From small businesses to multi-nationals, Giles has a wealth of experience. He works closely with each business to create a rounded brand identity. This includes logo design, establishing core values, clarifying the brand identity and facilitating a strategy to communicate each brand story.
Joanne Turner is the director of NS24 Ltd, offering bookkeeping, accounts and payroll services based in Galashiels. When we started the Mentoring programme Joanne had taken on new premises and begun to hire her dream team. At every meeting we were excited to hear her progress, as she took huge leaps of faith. Initially this approach to business gave me heart palpitations however, seeing her business grow in the direction she chose is very inspiring.
Tartan Plus Tweed
Mike McGarvey is the owner of Tartan Plus Tweed, located on Bank Street in Galashiels. Mike’s shop is a collection of quality Scottish products celebrating our culture and craft. He specialises in sourcing tartan for kilts and offers a measuring and hire service from his shop. Mike also sells through Global market places and has some interesting insights into how it works. I’d been reserved about market places until I met Mike, now I understand the reach they give and the success they can bring.
Benefits of business mentoring
I have found there to be many benefits from business mentoring. Firstly, working alongside other business owners can give you a different perspective on your own business. If you can open up and talk honestly, you can learn a lot from each other. Also, being encouraged to set goals and be accountable for their success or failure drives you to make them work.
I welcomed the time that was created by joining the Mentoring for Growth group. It enabled me to step out of the office to focus on the overall business strategy. As small business owners we can become engulfed in the multitude of jobs that spring up daily. Sometimes I would start the day with a lovely big ‘to do’ list but by 11am its gone awry. This would bring a lot of frustration however, sharing this with the group taught me more efficient planning methods. Sometimes it’s the little things you find out in a conversation that can have a profound effect.
Secondly, the expert advice was invaluable. The programme, developed by business owners, assists small businesses to achieve growth. It was inspirational to see the variety of businesses taking time support us on our journey. It was interesting to learn the history of these businesses and understand that none of it happened overnight. As small businesses grow, they start to support the economy by creating jobs, increasing productivity and encouraging trade and tourism. The advisers understand the challenges that come during this crucial stage of development, which is why help and advice is so important.
We were fortunate to have a wealth of knowledge in our mentors. Hans Waltl from BCCA Accountants lead the discussions on business strategy and finance, arguably to most important. Mike Wilson of Eildon Systems explored the ins and outs of exporting as well as highlighting key aspects of manufacturing. Raymond Kerr from Qube GB Holdings discussed operations by explaining how he achieved global reach from a project started at his kitchen table. Arthur Rennie from Hawick Knitwear provided insight on management systems assisting sales, marketing and export. Willie Wood, HR manager at Johnston’s of Elgin, discussed the enormity of this sector and helped us focus on the key points for small businesses. Andrew McEwan from ‘And We Do This’ reviewed each of our websites and discussed areas for improvement.
Overall, we discussed a lot of the key fundamentals of business. Having graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BA(hons) in business, it was refreshing to review the importance of each one within the workplace.
Mentoring for Growth is a pilot programme which will continue with the support and feedback of all participants. It is fully funded and takes many hours of planning by the team of volunteers. I wholeheartedly support it and encourage other business owners to apply now! It has specifically helped me to focus on setting and measuring goals while finding a supportive network of local businesses.
Many thanks to the mentors who lead sessions with us, I really appreciated your time. Thank you to Hans Rey, Mike Wilson, Bruce Simpson, Heather Bond and Emma McCallum for coordinating the programme. This is a fantastic service which has undoubtedly helped my business. Now, the thing we didn’t get round to signing off, when are we going to get some Mentoring for Growth custom design hats made?!