Sue interviews Kerrie Dorman, Founder & Chair of The Association of Business Mentors and Chris Dowling, Business Mentor in Uckfield, East Sussex.

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What size of businesses typically ask for mentoring and why?

Kerrie – mainly micro and small businesses because they are in that uncertain phase of what to do next in terms of structure and growth. Some believe that having a mentor is the magic wand that will sort out all the problems, come up with pockets of cash and make the business successful. Clearly we have a lot of educating to do!

Chris – start-up businesses also want mentoring support – they are looking for the experience and contacts that a mentor can provide.

What do businesses look for in a Mentor?

Chris – lots of experience and the understanding of the challenge facing the business owner. Also, the ability to listen, support and follow up – to be a ‘critical friend’.

How often do you generally suggest to meet clients? 

Kerrie – minimum once a month if on a program. Some just need a one off session to address a specific issue or a brainstorm and thats fine. Some businesses love the weekly sessions for an initial period before cracking on themselves.

Chris – the mentor should be easily available, even at weekends and in the evening.

However, the mentor and client do not have to live in the same area. Although mentoring face to face works well, so does remote mentoring over the phone or by Skype. Mentoring is about the relationship between the mentor and the client, not the geography!

Do you always work with a business plan?

Not always. It depends on the issue at hand. I always ask if there is one? But again Business Plans are perceived to be these 60 page plus docs that are really only required for banks and raising money. A myth! They should be no longer than 10 pages including finacials which should remain simple. Plans are meant to be dynamic as situations change but this is not normally the case. Increased success rate would be achieved if plans were written and Mentors engaged!

Can a mentor work with any industry?

A professional business mentor is able to work on generic mentoring as business experience is essential to be a mentor. However sector specific mentoring is becoming more sought after and the Association of Business of Mentors has plenty of specialists available.

Does the Association of Business Mentors work nationally and locally? Yes UK and Ireland with members based in all parts of the country.

What are the benefits of working with a member of the Association of Business Mentors?

For the Mentor- proven credibility and an extensive support network. For the Mentee (client) – vetted mentors, safe hands and proven experience (the Association requires a minimum of two years business experience for full membership). Most of the Association members have 20-30 years of business experience in many different sectors.