My mentee is Paul Litten, who runs Site Project Services Ltd., a commercial cleaning service based in Warrington.
The business operates primarily in the Liverpool, Manchester and surrounding areas and offers complete cleans on new build and refurbishment projects prior to client handover.
Paul had been involved in a forum for businesses led by the University of Lancaster, which provided an opportunity to discuss ideas and compare experiences with other business owners. Paul found this very useful but it was only available for a limited period. Following this experience Paul, looked for something which might provide similar support and picked up on the Mentorsme Programme.
Mentoring has helped Paul to focus on two key issues: the conversion of tenders to contracts; and financing. Our discussions explored various aspects of these issues and in most respects Paul already knew what needed to be done. However, having the chance to talk things through gave Paul the confidence and assurance that the decisions he made had a sound basis and potential to move the business forward.
My learning points have been that I’ve always been inclined to feeling that “face to face” meetings are likely to produce the best results. I suppose this comes from my experiences in business meetings and coaching. However, I’ve found with Paul that a combination of telephone conversations (including Skype) and email exchanges can be just as effective. I think this is because having identified an issue an email exchange means there is time to think and reflect on the issue rather than seeking a quick solution which can happen at a meeting.
Also, despite my lack of knowledge about the intricacies of the sector Paul operates in, this can be an advantage as I don’t make assumptions and my wider knowledge of business does mean I can bring a wider perspective to issues. I need to remind myself not to undervalue the knowledge and experience I have. Things I take for granted and believe anyone in business should know are not necessarily part of the Mentees armoury or experience. A simple call, text message, email at the end of the week asking how things are going can be really effective - the interest shown seems to have a good impact with Mentees who I feel, quite often, are on their own.
There is a definite “feel good” factor when the Mentee expresses genuine thanks or appreciation for the help given. With Paul I’ve had discussions, particularly early in our relationship, when he sounded “down”, there’s no doubt in my mind that just having the chance to talk to an outsider can improve things. As you get to know your Mentee I also believe I can get a very good idea as to what frame of mind they are in. I enjoy the challenge of helping Mentees and learn something from every contact, which adds to my experience and ability to continue to add value.
Mike O’Loughlin is an employee of Barclays Bank and a business mentor.