When I was running a social enterprise in Brighton back in 2004, Business in the Community matched me with a brilliant mentor. I won three industry awards because he gave me the confidence (and the idea) to even put in an application.
Whatever stage you’re at with your enterprise, it can be a lonely road. If you haven’t nabbed yourself a mentor yet, here’s some food for thought.
Imposter syndrome and doubts about being a credible business manager creep in when you’re running a social enterprise. Often you’re working in a brand new area or innovation and because of this, you may experience doubt. A mentor will be the person who can lift you out of these moments by reminding you of your skills and experience. By being there with regular feedback and positivity, you’ll gain the confidence you need to keep going, call those people up, apply for that award, that grant, post that article on social media, apply for that contract.
Business is as much about who you know as about what you know. A great mentor can give you access to people who could help your business, from the corporate, public sectors as well as the social sector. They’re not there to handhold, but they’ll know people outside your current network and encourage you to build your own. At the same time, you should think of it as a two-way relationship with your mentor – your network of contacts may also help your mentor in their line of work.
Sometimes when you’re working on the business, you can get caught up in the day-to-day. A mentor meeting is always a time to reflect and bounce ideas off someone. I always loved this part myself. You might be suffering from too many ideas and a mentor can help you choose the best ones that could have the most impact.
Planning and productivity
Heard of the 80/20 rule? Most social entrepreneurs are the busiest people I know as there’s always more that can be done, more people to contact, more ideas to follow up. But you need to make sure you’re not just ‘busy’ but that you’re focusing on what matters to get to your goals. A mentor will always bring you back to your business objectives and can help you sort out the ‘nice to dos’ from the ‘must-dos’ in order to have the most impact and grow the greatest income. Sometimes just having the time and space to talk through your work plan with someone helps you focus and make the best decisions.
Most change-makers have motivation in spades for the impact they’re trying to create in the world. However, you might not be as motivated to say do that cashflow forecast or update that HR policy. Plus, you will always have the days, sometimes weeks when you think ‘why am I doing this’, ‘it’s too hard’. Sometimes you need someone who’s got your back, reminds you of your purpose and motivates you to keep going.
Convinced? There’s lots of organisations out there to help you and this guide from SSE has loads of resources to get you started.
Written by Hannah C, SSE comms manager