According to the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council & my professional body) defines mentoring as such,
“Mentoring is a learning relationship, involving the sharing of skills, knowledge, and expertise between a mentor and mentee through developmental conversations, experience sharing, and role modelling.”
What an amazing opportunity for anyone to experience working with a mentor!
For the lucky, their workplace has a mentoring scheme that enriches their lives through great relationships. Mentor relationships can have a huge impact on wellbeing, knowledge, confidence & personal and professional development. They make a huge difference to businesses.
So what happens when you’re a 1 to 9 employee organisation (a micro business) where capacity is super tight, everyone has to do a little of most tasks and no one within the organisation has the time or inclination to mentor? What happens if you’re a one person micro business? How can you access mentoring that’s great quality and affordable?
Here are some ideas to help micro business owners benefit from a mentor relationship:
As a mentor that belongs to a professional body, you might think I see that informal mentoring is not a good idea. However, my own experience of being mentored this way has been transformative. There are a few people in my business life who have had a huge impact on my thinking and learning and without whom I couldn’t have progressed my business (or me!). This may be a fellow micro business owner from a networking group or someone who you admire that you’ve asked to help you out. You may be able to swap skills to support each other. However, there are some ground rules and some things to think about:
Choose carefully – great mentoring experiences are about the relationship. This should be safe, confidential and respectful. Mentoring can only happen if you feel that your communications are on an equal footing, in utter confidence and without judgement.
Who to choose – think about inspiring people in your sector or field that you admire or feel you could learn from. Perhaps you have met them at a networking event or they belong to a trade body like you. Get to know them first to build rapport and to ensure you might be a good fit.
Have boundaries – your mentor may not fully be aware that you see them as such. They may be generous with their ideas and support naturally. Be mindful to thank them for this and let them know how much it helps. However, often you will need to set some boundaries around the mentoring. For example you might agree a time limit each month or a set number of ‘sessions’/coffees/lunch meetings. You also need to to set some goals so that mentoring doesn’t meander or become open ended. For example you may ask for help on one particular area of your business or a decision. You need to be accountable. If you’re using someone else’s time, be sure to take the meetings seriously and take action accordingly, otherwise you’re just a drain and these are just conversations.
Paid for 121 mentoring
This can often be out of reach for many micro business owners who are short on resources. However, if you have a real sticking point or lack confidence or skills in an area that is now limiting your business, then it may be the best investment you ever make.
Look out for funded mentoring programmes too. Despite the fact that many of these programmes target businesses over 5 employees, you may get lucky. If you get the chance to access something like this, be sure to use your time wisely with clear goals, time set aside to be accountable and a mutually respectful relationship.
Go to a professional body like EMCCuk.org who will have a list of mentors that have had some training. If you’re paying for your mentoring, then this is a great insurance. Be sure too that you have good rapport. Mentoring should feel great, challenging, but great. If you feel talked down to, intimidated or not listened to, move on.
Peer or Group Mentoring
This can be a great way to get some mentoring for you but also be able to share your own knowledge and experiences. This fulfilling way to mentor can also lead to long lasting networks of business ‘friends’ that can really boost moral as well as learning.
This type of mentoring might be one mentor with multiple mentees, a group of mentors and mentees or a group of peers or mentees who may be at a similar level or experience.
Group dynamics can be a challenge, so be sure that you trust the people or person who may have brought together the group and be prepared for open and honest conversations. It really is the case that the more you contribute the more you will get out of such a group.
Peer mentoring for micro businesses works really well if you have shared experiences too. It could be that you’re all creative businesses or that you all share a similar location as well as all having the lived experience of being a micro business owner.
The Simply Club
Simply Great Britain was set up to celebrate, support & connect micro business owners in Britain. This silent majority in the UK business sector, often struggle to benefit from some of the features that a large business brings, like recognition, mentoring and status. For us, it is so important to give voice to micro business owners and provide them with affordable and easy to access opportunities that they might receive as an employee or as large business boss.
The Simply Club is a business membership community just for micro business owners. We provide business resources, ideas and training as well as group mentoring groups and Meet Ups. You can access discounted professional business coaching and 121 mentoring and feel supported as part of a peer group of exceptional micro business owners. Our members do business together and lift each other up to the spotlight while turning up the volume on life as a micro business owner in Britain.