The support provided by volunteer business mentors through Dorset Business Mentors is proving ‘invaluable’ in the fight against business closures in Dorse during the coronavirus lockdown, the service says.
Charlotte Bowater, the service’s joint programme manager (marketing), says it has launched a special ‘Business Resilience Service’ being delivered by a team of its most experienced mentors.
‘The service is open to all business owners in any sector whether sole traders or employer of up to 250, and is also targeting charities and social enterprises who are a particularly hard hit sector right now,’ says Charlotte.
‘Applications to the service have doubled week on week, with the trend expected to continue as the lock-down continues to bite.
‘Our mentors are all senior-exec level business professionals and successful entrepreneurs who are giving their experience and time for free for the benefit of others. In so doing they are providing an invaluable support and sounding board, without time restrictions, to those who are responding to the crisis and fighting for the survival of their businesses,’ she notes, adding that Dorset Business Mentors are looking to reach all the the county’s 38,000 businesses.
Access to the service is free for up to 3 months; the offer ends mid-June, but the usual charge is only £200 per annum, to ensure accessibility it says. This is thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
For those who have taken immediate action and are using government support and initiatives available to them, or other measures, there is an opportunity to work proactively on the business, rather than in it. This means making good use of time to work on budgets, management processes, review supply chains/communications/means of working and so on.
Whatever the situation of the business, Charlotte Bowater says the service is built on a structured 5-point plan that enables the mentor to quickly establish the current situation, signpost where necessary, help the business navigate the downturn, and plan ahead for the upswing and recovery. Mentoring is now being conducted through platforms such as Zoom and Skype, where normally it would be face to face at the workplace.
Full details of the service and the online application form can be found here: https://dorsetbusinessmentors.uk/business-resilience
The service, which recently rebranded from Dormen to Dorset Business Mentors, says its key messages include:
- Businesses are expertly matched to one of the services 128 mentors based on individual need, and support is confidential and given 1:1.
- This isn’t just a Q&A helpline. DBM offer immediate and ONGOING support. Reaching out to Dorset Business Mentors, coming out of isolation as a business owner, could be the difference between collapse and survival, scraping through or coming out positioned to thrive as restrictions are lifted.
- Business owners are accepting that the ‘normal’ after the crisis will be different and in thinking about how to anticipate this are looking to benefit from the guidance and sounding-board offered in our proven and experienced senior-exec level mentors.
- Almost every business coming forward has said their accountant are too busy helping others to help them, and the service’s mentors are finding the business doesn’t have the right daily/monthly management accounts information to help them with decision making. So mentors are stepping in to establish cash flow positions, and ensure business owners understand what information they need and how to use it.
- It is essential that businesses make the most of the opportunity to communicate with clients digitally, but in the right way. The service says it is ensuring it responds to common issues arising from businesses at this time. As such it is informing the free Dorset Growth Hub Digital Webinar scheduled for April 22nd 11am-12pm: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/adapting-with-digital-webinar-series-dorset-growth-hub-tickets-100935823766 This will provide useful guidance on communicating digitally at this time.
- Mentors guide, they do not advise…..so business owners are responsible for their own decisions. However it is the process of making decisions, helping the owners ‘stress test’ them before taking action, the contribution of experience and creative thinking where the Mentor adds particular value.
Charlotte Bowater, herself a businesswoman and owner of of Guilded Ltd, adds: ‘I will look back on accessing this service as the turning point during this crisis – I was feeling bleak about the next few months but with the help and fresh eyes of my mentor I now have a way forward and the future looks. Any business would me mad not to make use of this opportunity.
Mentor Mark Hudson is conducting the initial assessment of applications. he is is one of the group’s most experienced mentors and specialises in the analysis of business models and in the strategy and decision making processes to make them successful. He says: ‘Business people need help through the crisis – they also want to do the right thing now and plan for their future. Dorset Business Mentors is positioned to enable them come out of isolation with an experienced hand of support.’