We speak with Eric Mitchell and ask what drives him to motivate and help others looking to start-up their own businesses.
What inspired you to become a Mentor?
One of the most satisfying parts of my career have been mentoring other managers and graduates. A number of these have gone on to successful careers within the business and other companies which I have always felt was a valuable achievement – it isn’t just about business performance. It’s also about developing people which in turn creates success and has a positive effect on others. It’s rewarding to help others if you have the means to do so.
Tell me about yourself, what’s your background?
I come from a technology background (electronics) before migrating into wider business roles including business development, BID management, operational management. This prepared me for later senior management roles including Programme Management Director, Director Management Services and General Manager of a subsidiary in Europe. My career has taken me to places, including USA, Japan and Europe.
More recently I have been running my own management consultancy working with SMEs and mentoring individuals. I also work in providing volunteer mentoring and gained immense satisfaction from this work – especially when seeing Mentees grow in confidence and see the realisation of their plans come to fruition. In addition to volunteer mentoring, I also volunteer from time to time in getting involved in ‘employability’ sessions for 15yr olds in a few schools via another organisation.
Furthermore, I am a member of the Association of Business Mentors and Affiliate Member of Institute of Enterprise Entrepreneurs (IOEE). I’m also member of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce.
What’s the best/favourite part of being a Mentor?
I have always gained satisfaction from imparting knowledge to others but being a pragmatic person, the best part is seeing someone make a success from whatever they chose to do. Nothing frustrates me more than someone not fulfilling their full potential so I have a saying that ‘potential is meaningless unless it is fulfilled’.
The best part for me is helping a client working through issues and seeing the ‘light come on’ moment when he/she sees the solution.
…..and of course getting that genuine ‘thank you’ from a client – especially when their self-confidence has been low at the start of your engagement and has significantly increased. I find most clients get a real buzz when they issue their first invoice and as a mentor this makes it all worthwhile. Of course there is always a long way to go in proving a business is sustainable but this moment can be the ‘birth of someone’s dream’.
However, knowing you have been part of something that has a positive impact on peoples’ lives and in many cases see them succeed is extremely rewarding. On a broader perspective, every person we help in themselves makes a contribution to the economy and wider society.
In your opinion, what qualities do you feel are necessary to be a good Mentor?
Many. Firstly, I do think you need the background of operating in a business role or running your own business for you to speak with authority and for the client to have confidence in you. Additionally, you need to listen, analyse, facilitate, motivate and communicate effectively.
It’s not about achieving your objectives; it is helping the client achieve theirs and ensuring that as they move forward the client is confident to work through a rational thought process to come to sensible business decisions.
What’s your #1 piece of advice you can give to people thinking about starting their own business?
Do your homework, be realistic and plan – the more preparation you can do in identifying the market, understanding whether you can supply the customers with what they want at the competitive price, whilst reaping the return needed to be sustainable, the better. Now of course, this is all common sense but on many occasions this common sense is forgotten in the early stages which can make life difficult after launching.
Being realistic is very important whether it be regarding sales forecast, costs, customer requirements or timescales to put things in place. Oh, and always remember how crucial cash flow management is –as we know many profitable businesses have gone out of business by not managing cash flow.
You need to know enough depth about all aspects of your business to be able to ask the right questions of the experts – so this means keeping up to date with any developments which could affect your business. As we say; “you never stop learning”.