Launching today, Mentorsme is an online gateway which will make it easier for British business owners to find a mentor. It does this by acting as a directory of existing organisations, all over the UK. In addition, it contains some general information by way of an introduction to mentoring.
Operated by the Business Finance Taskforce, set up by the British Bankers’ Association, I think that the site is a welcome addition and should be seen as a positive development.
Having attended a couple of meetings at the department of Business Innovation and Skills on the subject of mentoring, it is great to see the site launched.
In order to avoid being rude about something which may be about to be said, allow me to suggest answers to a couple of, sadly predictable, possible points about MentorsMe;
1) Shouldn’t banks be lending money rather than worrying about mentoring? As you may know, the UK’s four biggest banks have committed (via Project Merlin) to making £190bn of credit available to businesses this year, and £76bn of this is to smaller businesses. Mentorsme is a practical step which helps business owners find the person they need to help them grow their business.
There is a worrying misunderstanding in Britain (I think), around the role of banks in supporting very early stage companies with lending support. Too often people mistake banks for investors, working themselves up into a state of high indignation when they are turned away.
2) Didn’t bankers get us into this mess? This question has now become tedious, and not least because retail bankers have been (wrongly) branded alongside their more reckless colleagues. It is only when you meet some of the staff of our biggest banks that you realise how much they care about their customers and how tough the last couple of years have been, as their reputation has been kicked by just about anyone looking for a quick bit of kudos. I should declare here that my involvement with StartUp Britain has allowed me to spend time with employees of several banks, and their support has been considerable.
3) Over 200 of the mentors are going to be either current or former bank staff. What do they know about running a business? The short answer is quite a lot. Again, this is a patronising question and one that is fairly typical of the lazy, stereotyped way in which ‘bankers’ are viewed in Britain. Yes, for many the ideal business mentor will be someone who has run a business of their own. However, to dismiss the offer of time and energy from someone who may have seen literally hundreds of businesses is to miss a valuable opportunity.
I support Mentorsme because it starts by pointing the way to a host of existing organisations. It also puts out a call to potential mentors, which I hope is answered.
The site will, I’m sure, grow and evolve over the coming months and years. Great businesses and sites are not built in a day. I know from personal experience that it is easy to knock things, and considerably tougher to offer something useful by way of contribution.
“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” Samuel Johnson