Interview with Eric Mitchell on benefits of being a Mentor

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.

Interview With Eric Mitchell, MD of MGE Business Solutions

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”.

Mentoring help for Small Businesses & Start Ups

MGE Business Solutions now provide an even greater degree of flexibility – we have reconfigured our Mentoring packages to make them even more affordable, even more accessible and even more industry-focused for our clients. One-to one mentoring can vastly increase your companys’ chances of success – we have the experience to show you how to stay out of trouble and can help you become more efficient and attractive to your customers. Starting from as low as £99.99 per month, our new range of Mentoring packages provide practical support by professional, dedicated Mentors who will guide you through the traumas of setting up your business and making it healthy enough to GROW. Call today to discuss your requirements.

Practical Help for Start Ups

For the un-initiated it can be a daunting prospect facing your first year in business. It can be many things, including:

  • Leap of faith
  • Stressful
  • Exhilarating
  • Scary
  • Exhausting
  • Rewarding
  • Learning experience

Of course, if you have done your preparation using good market research and produced a business plan that is realistic with achievable targets, there is a good chance of a successful outcome. However, you still need to implement your plan in the environment you are operating whilst using sound business practises to ensure are leading, in control always know the status of your business.

So, how do you give yourself the best possible chance of surviving that first critical 12 months and lay the foundation for a successful and sustainable business?

Some areas where MGE could help you

  • Business creation and development
  • Learning sessions to ensure you are armed with the best possible information and techniques
  • Crash download sessions to give you knowledge on different area of business including Marketing, Finance, Technology, Management and control, Methods on how to forecast, Potential pitfalls etc
  • 1 day session entitled “What can I expect from my first year in business?” Interactive session which is intended to prepare for potential issues which can arise and working through the thought process to solve these issues. This will help you to work through issues in a methodical manner without panic decision making
  • Ongoing Mentoring by experience business Mentors

Latest statistics suggest that 25% of new start-ups fail in the first year. The support we can give can help give you a better chance of surviving beyond this crucial period. AND …

 

It may not be as costly as you think to give you that better chance

- contact us today

Startup businesses – keeping overheads down

A company is never as vulnerable as it is when it’s first starting out, so keeping an eye on costs and overheads is essential. Many businesses start out on track, but this is due to the fact that they are at the beginning of their invoicing cycle – budgets and forecasts can quickly be thrown into disarray if you take your eye off the ball, customers don’t pay on time or something unexpected arises. The lower, you keep your overheads, the better chance of your business riding the storm and reaching the clear waters beyond. Here’s how you can minimise startup costs and give your company a fighting chance.

Budgets

Finances can easily spiral out of control if you haven’t a defined budget to guide you and keep you out of trouble. Examine each area of your business and decide what you have available to spend, and then stick to that figure. You can always readjust your budget and upgrade any area when your business begins to show a profit.

Offices

The next question to arise will be where to locate your business. To save money many people initially work from home, however this isn’t always ideal, especially if you want to give an aura of professionalism and impress prospective clients. Taking your time in selecting an affordable office is important. It may be cheaper for example to consider a ‘serviced office’ where certain costs are built-in to your contract. Another option to look at would be a ‘virtual office’ – an even cheaper option and the preferred choice of many start-up companies.

A virtual office provides you with a physical address but you don’t actually need to work at that location, so you have the mailing address and the prestige of an office, but none of the associated overheads. In addition, you can use it as a casual workspace if you need to get out of the house for a while, or for meetings and client visits.

Investment

If you need to raise funds for your business, particularly through traditional means such as banks, you will probably find that you have to pay very high interest rates. This can prove prohibitive to many fledgling businesses. Fortunately, during recent years, others sources of business funding have evolved which don’t have such high costs attached. These include: ‘Angel’ investors, micro-loans, community organisations and crowdfunding schemes – a good business advisor could save you a fortune and many of them provide free mentoring and very useful advice.

Investment

Equipment

Equipment can be an expensive drain on your business, so always think carefully about exactly what you need. Don’t go down the route of acquiring poor-quality equipment, as this will usually cause more problems than it solves. However, you don’t need to purchase everything brand new either.

Rent or lease whatever equipment you are able to, as this will give you the ability to upgrade or to change the specifications of the equipment as your business evolves. You should also consider purchasing second-hand equipment, as there are substantial savings to be made at online marketplaces, local auctions or even on liquidated stock if a business has gone bust.

Staff

Whilst experienced, talented employees are always going to be a boon to your business, in the early days particularly they can be a big commitment. This isn’t only in terms of salaries, but also benefits, payroll overheads and the awareness you need to have of employment legislation.

When you are just starting out it is probably best to take advantage of the talented freelance community that has evolved over recent years. You can either source freelancers through sites such as Freelancer.co.uk or Elance.com, or ask around your peers for personal recommendations. Freelancers can be used for a wide variety of tasks, including administration, web development, graphic design and even legal advice. The advantage is that you aren’t employing anyone directly, so aren’t liable for National Insurance contributions, and can work with them just for the time you need them, with no long term commitment.

Marketing

Although traditional print marketing still exists, in recent years it has largely been overtaken by online methods. For any new business start-up, it is vital to have a high quality website that is going to get you found in search engines. A website is also a calling card for your business and so it needs to clearly summarise the benefits working with you can bring. Because of the need for a professional look, this is one area that it is a good idea to outsource to a web development company or an experienced freelancer.

Additionally you can market your business through the various social media channels and these, for the most part, are free. Establish a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter where you can tell prospective clients about the services or products you offer and upcoming events and promotions. Once again, your business advisor or mentor will most likely have some proven contacts, so ask his/her advice.

Working From Home

Many small businesses are run from the relative comfort of a persons’ own home. There are pros and cons associated with this, obviously. Some find it difficult to increase revenue because they are unable to apply themselves or concentrate on the work itself through distractions. It is important therefore to have some kind of structure – most people find that working within reasonably set hours helps them to focus. Also, try and have a separate space in your home which is just used for working – so as to create a divide between work life and home life.

Time management and getting the balance right between work life & home life can often be difficult. Many people love the idea of being able to be their own boss and work from home. They then find the reality is they can’t focus when there is always something to distract them (daytime television, doing the washing up, Facebook etc.). The best way to focus is to be sure exactly what you want to achieve on a given day, or in a week. Jot down what you would like to do, and stick to it.

Try to reward yourself if you’ve had a good day and achieved your goals. Promise yourself at the beginning of the day that you can have half an hour sitting in the garden with a cool drink provided you complete certain tasks – by way of an example. It is always easier said than done though. You will find that you have good days, and bad days. Don’t beat yourself up too much about the bad days – everyone has them. Just try and make up for the bad days by following them with a good one.