Mentors on hand to offer advice and support to new businesses

SHARING THE LOAD: Whether it's talking through problems or celebrating a great sale, mentors can make a big difference to new businesses.
SHARING THE LOAD: Whether it's talking through problems or celebrating a great sale, mentors can make a big difference to new businesses.
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Apprentice winner Yasmina Siadatan says having Lord Sugar as a mentor was brilliant. Now she is working to give other start ups a similar experience.

A BUSINESS mentor can do wonders for a company, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

But few are as forthright as Alan Sugar.

Yasmina Siadatan was able to benefit from his wisdom after she won the TV show The Apprentice in 2009.

Before the show, she had run a restaurant with her brother, and suddenly she found herself working for Lord Sugar at Amscreen Healthcare, part of his business empire.

“He is an incredible man. For me to find someone like him as a mentor was brilliant.

“He is really straight. You always need someone to tell you how it is and he can be brutal but is very honest and that is what you must have.”

After leaving and starting a family, Yasmina returned to the business world, and is now the creative director with the Start Up Loans Company, a Government funded agency that provides support, business loans and mentoring to start up businesses and young companies which are looking to move forward.

Mentors have become recognised for providing crucial help and support, not just for new companies but also established ones which are looking to take the next step.

There can be a danger that a business can become inward looking, and a fresh insight can be very beneficial. Some bigger companies even have non executive directors as mentors.

Start Up Loans has been going two years, and helps launch 42 new businesses every day. Some 400,000 people have approached it in that time, with 21,000 new businesses setting up.

“The Government realised it’s not just finance that’s needed to help people start a business, it’s also mentoring and support which makes a difference. Our remit is to provide both,” said Yasmina.

“We try to supply a mentor from the same sector, but people can also find great advice and expertise from mentors in a different field. Some problems are the same everywhere – for example, problems with cash flow can be present in businesses in all different sectors.

“Being a business owner can be a very lonely place sometimes, and having someone who can listen and give advice can be a great help. That is true in the hard times but also the good. If you have done a great sale or a really good pitch or have just employed someone it can be very beneficial to meet up with a mentor to celebrate and talk things through.

“Having someone who can give you specific guidance can be great for your confidence.”

In recent years the importance of mentoring has become more widely recognised, and there are now more chances than ever of being able to tap into the knowledge and experience of someone who can help.

Banks such as RBS, which has relationship managers based across the region, can provide guidance and support, and offer a listening ear for those either starting a new business or looking to move their existing company to the next level.

• RBS England & Wales is to be the future Williams & Glyn, a new bank for both personal and business customers with a particular strength in supporting SMEs.

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