With the focus firmly on rebuilding business for so many Irish SMEs, small business owners and managers should seriously look to MentorsWork to tackle skills gaps and development needs, Sven Spollen-Behrens, Small Firms Association Director, advises.
To say that few businesses were unscathed by the pandemic is probably an understatement. Larger companies were generally better positioned and resourced to adapt or to ‘pivot’, but many of our smaller firms literally had to shut up shop.
Some did manage to adjust, and many took their business offering online, and learned to lead teams remotely. Great ingenuity and innovation was apparent in the efforts of many SMEs to survive the business impacts of Covid-19.
Now, thankfully, is the time to identify a clear path to recovery and future growth, and MentorsWork is an excellent starting point.
A completely free programme, this bespoke scheme delivers expert support from an impartial professional; essentially fresh eyes on your business and no bias or emotional attachment to it.
Applications opened this month for the latest phase of the scheme, and information and an application can be found on https://mentorswork.ie/.
MentorsWork is a Government initiative and the free mentoring and business development tools offered are available to SME owners and managers operating in any sector. Delivered in partnership with Skillnet Ireland, the scheme is an excellent resource for SMEs to tackle skills gaps and development needs, in order to rebuild business.
Participants have free access to one-to-one mentoring from an independent professional mentor who is experienced in their business needs, as well as masterclasses and peer-to-peer workshops.
An online diagnostic tool provides insights to help business owners and managers identify key skills and development needs, business challenges and growth strategies. The initial business review is broken into four key areas; people, business processes, finance and growth, and digitalisation and automation.
There is also access to a self-paced learning portal and other online resources in the business development package, which is free to business owners and managers of SMEs.
First introduced in April 2020, MentorsWork has supported 700 businesses, to date, in various sectors including services, retail and manufacturing operations. Feedback is that 97% of the participating businesses that successfully completed the 12-week programme found it transformational.
Like anything worth having, MentorsWork participants do need to be willing to put in the work to see results. However, those committed to working with a mentor regularly achieve both business and personal development that benefits their wider team.
In fact, business mentoring at its best will also help organisations to retain their best people and increase staff loyalty.
In my experience, a mentor is someone who sees more in you, and in your business, than you can see yourself. In business, we often know where we should be, and recognise the commercial aims we need to pursue. But sometimes, being literally too close to the business, we don’t see the habitual or unconscious behaviour that may be holding us back.
An outsider can often help take you from where you are, to where you want to be!
To get the most from someone else’s experience and network, a good staring point is to think about and define short and long-term goals for the business, and what you want out of the mentoring work.
The software developed to support the MentorsWork programme is designed to examine the different pillars of your business and help you rate performance in each.
The aim is to make the business mentoring programme action-oriented, and it is important to follow through on actions agreed.
Our colleagues supporting MentorsWork tell us that to get the most out of mentorship, it is important for participants to make notes, prepare questions and, most importantly, work on the things they say they will.
Ideally your mentor will be someone who sees your vision, and has the expertise to help you execute it. A mentor will not tell you what to do, and certainly won’t do it for you. But what you get is their perspective, support and their business experience, to use them as a confidential sounding board, especially for working through crucial and maybe complex decisions.
If there are specific business questions you now need to address, MentorsWork could well be the answer.
Business owners and managers can apply to participate in MentorsWork at https://mentorswork.ie/. The programme is fully subsidised by the Government of Ireland is provided by the Small Firms Association (SFA) in partnership with Skillnet Ireland.