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It's lonely at the top - but less so with the right mentor

Like many business owners, our business leader Sherona found the opportunity to reflect on the future of the business at the outset of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Treen Coward Associates has grown year-on-year and continues to extend its customer base and adapt to ensure it provides the customers what they want, but there were still goals to be achieved including finding the right business mentor.

Sherona approached Dave Jones of UP, an organisation specialising in mentoring, coaching and training via Business Wales at the beginning of 2020. Nearly a year in, Sherona and UP sat down (at a social distance) to review the journey so far. A summary of the discussion follows.

Dave - Leading your own business, and doing so successfully, is one of the most satisfying and exhilarating experiences you can have in your professional career according to Sherona. Due to her strong ability to step back and work ‘on the business’ and her high level of emotional intelligence, Sherona recognised that she would value working with a mentor, someone who would listen to her ideas/issues/plans in a confidential manner and challenge/advise/support/question/coach as appropriate. It can be lonely at the top and there are times where a critical ear is extremely beneficial.

UP - When and why did you decide on finding a mentor?

Sherona - Finding a mentor had been on my agenda for some time, but I had struggled to find the right mentor for me. That said, I hadn’t really thought about exactly what I was looking for from a mentor. At the start of the pandemic lockdown, with some of my time freed up due to lack of travel and adapting our business to the changes, I finally sat down and wrote down what I was looking for in a mentor including their experience and background and what I needed support with.

UP - What reservations did you have?

Sherona - I was concerned that we may not have rapport or be able to establish a relationship and it could be awkward, I was determined to be honest if that had been the case. However, because I had been specific about what I need support with and the type of mentor I needed I think that alleviated any issues that we might not get along. In fact, I thought in our first telephone conversation we really hit it off, but I was completely honest about my situation and what I wanted to achieve.

UP - What have you found to be the biggest benefits of having a mentor?

Sherona - As a business owner I make every decision and am responsible for all aspects of the business, but there is no one to challenge me and my decisions. Having a sensible sounding board who will reasonably ask why I have reached certain conclusions or through the Q&A process critically evaluate why we are taking the path we are has really helped progress both my business and personal goals

UP - What are the things you are getting from mentoring that you least expected?

Sherona - The accountability was important to me, but we do have fun in the process and we can laugh about things, but also get work done. I think that balance is important.

We also stick to time, so we do get through the work we need to and always have a clear plan of action of work to be done by the next meeting.

I was concerned about taking my time from the business but it is truly an investment as I am only pursuing projects and decisions that add value to the business.

UP - How does mentoring work for you via Zoom?

Sherona - I was familiar with Zoom but it has absolutely worked for me. The additional benefit is that we are able to work around our individual schedules as it would not be practical to travel due to the distance. I also felt it was beneficial to source a mentor based on the criteria of support that I required rather than just geographical location.

UP - Why Dave at UP?

Sherona - As mentioned earlier, before starting to look for a mentor I made a list of what I needed support with and what skill set or background and experience I would be expecting to work with. This was also based on my background and work experience, but not necessarily my industry. As Dave’s LinkedIn profile was up to date and was verified through testimonials and relevant endorsements, I was confident he would be able to help.

UP - What advice would you give to someone considering working with a mentor?

Sherona - Be specific about what you need support with and where you require assistance, whether it is accountability, or a sounding board for your decision making, it gives the relationship and meetings purpose and that something constructive will be achieved.

Be clear about expectations from the start, if the mentor feels they can’t help you with something it is important you both move on.

Be honest with your mentor, they can’t help you if they don’t know the whole truth.

Do your background checks on the mentor, do they have the necessary expertise and experience to help you with what is needed?

Summary

Dave - Due to Sherona’s professional approach to choosing a mentor, she has ensured the correct mentor for her. Her planning and reflection has saved herself time in the long run.

UP and Sherona have a mentoring contract in place which clearly outlines roles and responsibilities, ethics, confidentiality arrangements and clear guidelines on ending the relationship if either party feels there is no further benefit in continuing.

At present, Sherona is finding the mentoring relationship very beneficial. It is enabling her to develop, helping her to address business issues and look ahead through planning. UP enjoys working with Sherona and it is great to play a small part by enabling Sherona to continue her business growth. Exciting times ahead for Sherona and her team at Treen Coward Associates, an organisation that every company should contact if they are looking for alternative solutions to their clerical, secretarial and administrative needs.

About Dave

Qualified to Masters degree level in Management, degree level in Chemistry and a qualified ILM Level 7 Executive Coach, Dave has over thirty years’ experience managing at all levels in various sectors, including engineering, automotive, medical devices, pharmaceutical and food. This has exposed him to many types of organisations and has enabled him to build extensive experience in a whole range of leadership, management, operational and continuous improvement specialisms at all levels. Dave can be contacted via the following channels

Website https://up4coaching.co.uk
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/davejones-up4coaching/
Twitter https://twitter.com/up4coaching
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/up4coaching/
Telephone 07742 950944

Main image: Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash