Week 1: A Sounding Board

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Welcome to the first in the new series of ‘The Mentor’s Journal’ which will look at some of my activities from the preceding week, with a view to turning the theory outlined in my ‘Views of a Mentor’ series into real, everyday situations. 

A group that I have been involved with for many years continues to expand and as well as growing its own business directly it has been increasing the number of companies it cooperates with closely in order to provide a better and wider service to its client base. Scaling always brings challenges and strategy is crucial, but where this is being done partly with outside partners then even greater effort is needed to sync business cultures and it is important to fully understand the importance of this. However a business grows it is of course important to regularly review strategy to check that this reflects the abilities and target market of the company, but also to ensure that any strategy moves with, and preferably just in advance of, any changing market conditions. As such, days like this to work on the business, rather than in the business, are crucial and time should always be found for such occasions irrespective of how busy you as the founder might be.

Later on in the week there were three different types of development all on the same day. I met with a founder that was in the early stages of building what should be a very promising business. As with many good business ideas this had grown from a personal requirement that they could not find in the market and so had decided to exploit this evident loophole. They had conducted a lot of research, done proof of concept work, spoken with potential suppliers and gone about everything in a very professional way, but found that they had many questions about how best to structure the business and make the idea a reality. As is often the case in these meetings I will not claim any miraculous insight but simply kicking their own ideas around with an informed and experienced outsider can very often clarify matters.

I then went on to speak at a small seminar about the various different ways of raising equity and a very quick look at the benefits and drawback of each type, and as ever at these events then having a number of impromptu one to ones with people about their own businesses.

The last mentor type meeting that day was with a company that had already developed its product, signed up supplier partners, raised initial funding, was undergoing a soft launch, and was in the early stages of preparing to raise funding. The founders had come to understand the benefits to the business going forward of having an advisory board and indeed how this would be beneficial in the fundraising process. They simply wanted to discuss the best way to proceed and how to go about this. Unlike the first business of the day this was not born from a personal need but simply from understanding how other businesses already active in the sector could greatly improve the experience for the customer. Again, another business with great prospects I think.

The week headed to a close by meeting with an already successful and growing business that had a number of specific business culture and legal questions around the Asian markets in which they operate.

My final meeting was in the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator hub in Brighton about how dynamic the region was, not only for startups but also for growing businesses. And to bring the week full circle we also discussed how the Entrepreneur Accelerator continues to revise its strategy to keep up with evolving trends and offer the best possible service.

More from The Mentor’s Journal next week.