Being a specialist in the recruitment sector means I am always looking to help my clients move to the next level. Often, this is to grow into a business that gives them an opportunity to sell and enjoy the fruits of their labour, or, if they are young enough, sufficient income to reward them for all the effort and hard work. I always ask my clients what their short term and long term goals and objectives are and then assess if they have the sufficient skills to achieve them. In most cases, there are knowledge or skills gaps that need filling, which are difficult to address when you become so busy working "in" the business, rather than "on" it. However, this can be resolved by having a mentor guiding you and keeping you on track.
Do you need a mentor?
You might already be successful - achieving excellent profits, no staff retention problems and a vibrant office culture - so why would you need a mentor? The best way to answer this question is to consider a successful sportsman or woman; despite being a success they are always trying to improve and better themselves and for that they have the best coaches. They get so far in their career or hit a ceiling where they cannot improve upon their natural talent, so they look to a coach to help them move to the next level. This is the same in business, coaches help grow businesses, increase the breadth of skills and improve the vision for the future, as well as give belief and encouragement to think bigger and not be afraid of pushing boundaries. They also support you personally, helping you to understand the importance of the time you’re away from the office and how getting your work/life balance right not only benefits you and your family, but can help you perform better at work.
I thought the best way to illustrate the benefits of appointing a mentor is to show you an example of the positive impact a mentor has had on the business and personal life of one of my clients.
My client who had a small, successful recruitment business in the financial sector decided to further his knowledge by signing up to the Cranfield Business School. He felt he needed further qualifications as he did not have a degree, but a strong work ethos, and wanted to start working smarter, rather than harder. It was whilst studying that he realised he could not achieve his full potential without external help and decided to take on a Non Exec. As a result, the business tripled in size and gave rise to a second business. In addition to the increase in turnover and profit, both businesses were far better structured and built on solid foundations. It was this structure and these foundations that were vital in allowing both businesses to maintain profit in the extremely tough trading conditions during the credit crunch, which had such a devastating effect on the recruitment industry.
The mentor made my client accountable and made sure the following were put in place:
- Planning meetings - Having monthly board/planning meetings stopped my client from being sucked into the day-to-day running of the business and kept him focused. As your SME business grows, of course you will still need to be working on day-to-day tasks, some of the time. But for your business to truly reach its full potential, you need to step out and allocate real quality time to working “on” your business planning. Thinking about where you want the businesses to go, how you’re going to get there, also how to improve the business as it is now (such as staff retention, hiring smarter, having a strong staff development strategy, looking at new technologies, the list goes on).
- Board meetings - Having a Non Exec led to regular “board meetings” and educated my client that, when done properly, board/ management meetings are highly productive. However, these meetings will not work if they are filled with lots of blue-sky thinking that evaporates the moment you leave the room. Having the meeting minuted with actions and circulated afterwards is critical, especially for disciplining those with actions to actually complete them. Without being accountable, it is far too easy to walk out of the room and get sucked back into firefighting, losing all the benefits of a great meeting.
- Setting your business goals - Hopefully your goal will grow as your business grows, giving you confidence to think bigger, but you can only do this if you get into the habit of setting quantifiable business goals. The mentor will help you define your aims and will also make sure you are working towards these on a regular basis.
- Planning to achieve your goals – There is no point setting goals and taking the time to put them down in writing if you do not have a clear plan of how you are going to achieve them. The plan has to have clear milestones, targets and project definitions so you can cascade down the detail of how to achieve the plan. A plan is useless if you don’t implement it, and having a “board” or Business Coach to update on the progress of these actions will, without doubt, make it more likely to be achieved.
- Improving personal growth – It is common for business owners, especially recruiters, to become complacent when it comes to personal development. Clients tend to slip back into bad habits of relying on a small number of skills and neglecting those that that have helped them in the past. A good Non Exec will not only share with you their own skills and experience, but they should also keep you on track with seeking further learning from outside the board room. My client attended 2 business leader forums to learn from business leaders from other sectors, as they naturally had strengths in areas a recruitment business leader would be weak.
- Ideas to be challenged - Being challenged helps you think in more detail about your ideas, and a good Non Exec should coach you on your ideas, to expand on the initial thought as well as looking at alternatives, how they compare and the practicalities of making them work. Most recruiters can be impulsive or have that drive to get things done, and it’s this that can lead to rushing the formation of ideas. A good Non Exec should help you stand back and look at your ideas to ensure they are well worked through, will add value and can be practically actioned. It’s only then you can evolve those ideas into a plan to make them work.
It is obvious that having a third party look at your business, without the emotional ties that a business owner has is of great benefit to you and will help you become even more successful, providing you with a clear vision of where the business is going, making sure the business stays on course and does not deviate away from the goals and objectives that have been set.
If you would like some contact details of mentors that I have recommended to my recruitment clients please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also offer a recruitment sector helpline, where you can ask any question to email@example.com and a member of our team will be in touch for free advice.