Ben Jones (left) heads up the Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders franchise of Furniture Medic – specialists in re-upholstering furniture for commercial clients.
Ben started the business ten years ago after deciding to retrain as a furniture maker and restorer, following a successful career in marketing with one of the UK’s leading breweries.
In the Autumn of 2014 Ben joined the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and British Bankers’ Association (BBA) Business Mentoring Programme. After assessing what Ben wanted to achieve for himself and the business through being mentored, and the skills, abilities, experience and personalities of the available mentors, Jill Connell of the Scottish Chambers’ mentoring team matched Ben with Andrew Clark Hutchison (above right).
Andrew’s current role is as a Relationship Director with Lloyds, and over the past 25 years he has worked throughout the UK in leverage finance, corporate banking and business development. Andrew is also an experienced mentor, having recently volunteered to mentor a range of firms across the country from start-up firms to social enterprises and SMEs.
Ben and Andrew were asked to explain how mentoring has worked for them and what they have achieved so far during the process….
What were your objectives going into mentoring?
Ben: “To get access to the bar & restaurant owners in Edinburgh was my immediate priority – that was our target market and my focus, and I found that difficult by myself. I`m always looking for ways to get more contacts and customers in Edinburgh and I felt a mentor could assist with this. I also wanted the business to be less reliant on me personally – more sustainable.”
Andrew: “I was keen to meet new people and interact with new businesses. I deal with large corporations in my work with the bank, normally those with turnover in excess of £100m. I was looking forward to meeting with smaller firms with different challenges. I was also hoping to give something back to the East coast business community.”
What business issues have you worked on during mentoring?
Ben: “Andrew’s day to day role has a lot to do with sales & interacting with clients so we’ve worked on sales techniques. My thinking has also become more focused on who I should be targeting.”
Andrew: “We worked on four distinct topics: Ben’s relationship management of fellow franchise owners, the development of the business in specific sectors, management of staff – particularly managing work-loads and staff during quieter periods, and setting milestones and longer term ambitions for Ben and the business to work back from.”
Have you achieved your goals through mentoring?
Ben: “Absolutely, Andrew has put me in touch with some excellent contacts in the Edinburgh hospitality industry and he has given me some insight into how to continue to break into markets. I think the support I have had from Andrew has benefited me in quite subtle ways, it has started to open doors and get things going.”
Andrew: “I now have a much better understanding and more sympathy for the complex and difficult challenges that SMEs face. Ben is a CE, HR director and business development manager all rolled into one. When I have to deal with a personnel issue I just call our HR dept. but Ben needs to deal with all of that himself.”
Would you recommend mentoring to other mentors/mentees?
Ben: “Oh I would definitely. It is important to know what you want out of it before you go in though. You have to have objectives that you want to achieve. It’s great to have that independent person working with you, when you’re running a business on your own you need that sounding board.”
Andrew: “I would because I’ve found mentoring challenging and it’s broadened my horizons. In your work you are trying to influence people and this can involve instructing your team to do something. Mentoring is different. Mentoring is about offering assistance and guiding people towards the right direction.”