Many years ago I was given a tip from a fellow entrepreneur. He said one of the best ways to combat stress and feelings of isolation as a business owner is to find someone who needs your help and support, and offer it out to them. Good old fashioned mentoring!
This is the premise which flips mentoring on its head. We hear so much about the benefits of being mentored, but speak to a mentor and you will hear the other side of the story.
When I applied for a role in The Apprentice the question was posed: "Who do you lean on in times of hardship?" For me the answer was easy - my Mum. She is my mentor, my coach, and my confidant. I'm lucky that she is not over protective and will tell like it is. Which is perfect in a mentor. You must tell it like it is.
Big business leaders have long recognised the importance of guidance. Take the Angel Investor - you see it on Dragon's Den all the time - candidates taking the lower investment offers in favour of the dragon they believe understands their goals and will elevate their business to the next level.
The government also places great value on mentoring. In fact, when setting up Start Up Loans - our scheme designed to enable start ups to raise capital - they recognised that money alone was not the answer. Support in the form of mentoring was the key to business survivability. To date we have lent to over 18,000 individuals, and are thrilled to know nearly 80% have been matched with a mentor.
Of course the mentoring is not compulsory - you cannot force a personal connection and not everyone goes for it - but we do all we can to ensure our loan recipients are offered appropriate advice and support.
Loan recipient Keshav Bhatt who has founded a youth leadership scheme called Revolution Hive, stresses the importance of mentoring, "The mentoring I have received from Start Up Loans has been priceless," says Keshav. "I was actually more interested in receiving a mentor than the loan itself. For me the support and networking opportunities I have received have been even more valuable than the financial backing."
We find our mentors from every corner of the UK. But one of the binding traits is they all feel the need to give back. Altruism is a trait we see time and time again. It's a characteristic intrinsic to an entrepreneur. The creative and positive mind-set that makes an entrepreneur is also the mind-set that wants to give back.
For instance, having worked by Lord Sugar's side for nearly two years I can honestly say he too makes a great mentor. Again, he tells it like it is. And he's not corporate. He is natural, and very honest. You can tell he genuinely cares about the fate of those he mentors, and I was privileged to have experienced that.
Very often mentors gain insights from those they help. Only the other day was I telling someone how to conduct their social media strategy and it occurred to me it was time to redefine our own! Fresh insight and new methodology flows from these relationships.
Contrary to popular belief a good mentor is not someone who knows there way round the HMRC rule book or can soothe your spirits. It is someone who will cut to the chase and teach you a few home truths about business and life - hopefully setting you on the path to lasting success.