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The UK Government has been trying for a number of years to encourage business mentoring, as an important part of its efforts to get the economy growing, but progress has been slow, and mentoring is much less common in the UK than in the US. Much of that growth in the economy is expected to come from today's small companies becoming the world class companies of tomorrow, and the experience and expertise of people who have ‘done it before’ is recognised as having a very valuable role in this.

Mentoring in its widest sense - getting the views of someone who has been there before - can apply to all the problems and challenges of life and work. See for example Horse's Mouth which encourages informal e-mentoring where 'everyone can give and gain'. It sets out to answer the question of 'how can I get the views of someone who has done this before?' - and maybe your lifetime of experience can be of help.

Career Development Coaches can help to change the life of someone who is long-term unemployed, by giving them one-to-one support on their journey from being out of work to finding a job and keeping it.

The UK Government's research report on the demand for mentoring amongst SMEs which was published in 2013 is a picture of the supply and demand for mentoring which is as valid to-day as it was then. It draws attention to a number of reasons why the uptake his been small, especially because of that mantra that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’; so that it is commonly where mentoring is an established part of another programme (such as in The Princes Trust programmes and in Accelerator programmes) that it has found its best recognition. (They are often available in Incubators, but then you have to know what you need!)
Nesta’s report of 2011, The Startup Factories – about Accelerators - charted their recent development in the US, notably YCombinator and Techstars, and their then embryonic development in the UK, notably Seedcamp in London, and Ignite in Newcastle, all of which made significant use of mentors. Since when Accelerators have taken off - more in London than elsewhere. Among the large users of mentors are SeedcampTechstarsWayra Lab (Telefonica)Startupbootcamp and MassChallenge, on average in the ratio of five mentors per SME.

‘Mentors’ play a vital role in advising the entrepreneur about various aspect of the business, whether it is the development of the idea, making a prototype or manufacturing the product, finding customers and marketing the product, and funding the future of the business. There is also a demand for mentors in specialist areas eg overseas marketing or patenting, but mostly the need is for business experience and sympathetic hand-holding.

Mentoring a start up or early stage company can become ‘part time management’ or ‘consulting’ and can grow into a role as a non executive director.

What makes a good mentor .

The different roles that mentors play in SMEs: the five (or six) different roles that are needed as SMEs evolve: concept developer, strategist, technical expert, marketing expert, funding expert, (and mentor manager). 

There are a number of business support organisations (see below) which include mentoring amongst their services, but each of them tends to approach their role in a slightly different way. Eg in most cases a mentor receives only his expenses, but in some cases they will be paid; and almost certainly will be paid if they become ‘consultants’ or non executive directors.

By its nature, mentoring a small company tends to be done locally, so if you are interested to play this role and to find out what demand there is for your experience and skills, contact your Local Enterprise Partnership.

Perhaps the single most important factor in building a business is to choose the right people with whom to work. Making the wrong choices can have a long term negative effect on the future of the business. For a helpful guide on hiring, see 'Recruit Faster and Hire Smarter'.

See these websites: - online learning and resources (active till 2012);, Britain’s first online site that connects companies with mentoring organisations, and full of information: an in depth provider of business school and career resources; thementorhive – a site enabling volunteers to provide online mentoring support to those that need it; The Association of Business Mentors that majors on professionalism and experience; and, which provides a list of the websites concerned with mentoring.

Also, Frederick's Foundation helps disadvantaged people (whether single mothers or unemployed or disabled or just financially hard up) to move into employment. They need mentors to help the businesses to grow

See the Scottish Enterprise mentoring programme 
The Kilfinan Group is a group of senior business people who provide free and informal mentoring to charity chief executives. It has 5 'chapters' and a number of members who meet bi-annually. Lifelines (CSV) is a Skill Sharing and Mentoring site for older people Volunteers aged 50+ to lead and run pr…
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    Their mentoring sub-site connects skilled people and social entrepreneurs
    They also connect early stage businesses and enterpreneurs with funders directly *