Mentoring and leadership development will play a vital role in supporting businesses as they manage the complex and fast-changing circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
The role of the business leader is now at its most challenging. There are immediate operational, commercial and financial challenges to address alongside ensuring employee health and wellbeing, securing jobs and maintaining momentum towards long term growth. Owners and managers need to be agile, adaptable, and innovative in this fast-paced environment where customers, markets and the global economy are in flux.
Mentoring and leadership development are essential parts of the support provided to businesses by Opportunity North East (ONE).
Programmes in the region’s key sectors – including growth, market development and innovation and the ONE Enterprise Fund have now assumed even greater significance in the current unprecedented socio-economic circumstances.
ONE’s mentoring programmes match experienced businesspeople with leaders in growth companies to enable them to share sector-specific experience, insights and provide a trusted sounding board for the mentee to help achieve agreed goals.
Leadership development provided by ONE includes peer-to-peer learning and one-to-one coaching to build know how, capability and skills needed to lead organisation in the current environment.
ONE is now partnering with leading professional services and accountancy firms to bring a new financial mentoring programme on stream for the next six months to help businesses address specific commercial and financial challenges.
The financial mentoring programme will help business leaders in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire dealing with the impact of the pandemic. It will provide mentoring support to aid their reset, recovery and growth plans in the current market and financial environment.
The combined support available from ONE to growth businesses in priority sectors will be critical to help business owners look ahead to plan in the short and medium to long term.
Patrick Machray OBE is vice-chair of ONE and is an active business mentor. He is the former chair of ONE Food, Drink & Agriculture and chairs the new company formed to deliver the SeedPod centre of excellence for the food and drink sector – one of the transformational industry innovation projects funded by the Aberdeen City Region Deal and ONE.
“The support and tools delivered through ONE – the business mentoring, leadership development and now financial mentoring – are precious resources for businesses to draw on. They provide owners and leaders with the confidence and assurance to identify solutions, make changes, adapt, and look ahead beyond the next six months. We want the businesses we work with to use all three resources to help get them through what is an extremely tough period for some and, despite everything, a period of opportunity for others. We want all businesses to benefit, to achieve their short-term goals and to maintain momentum towards stability and longer-term growth” said Mr Machray.
"In ONE's business mentoring and leadership development programmes, there are experienced business people who know the region’s key sectors and are there to help – to talk to in confidence, bounce ideas off, share their experience and insights, including the mistakes they have made. They aren't there to always provide answers, nor to necessarily agree with the mentee. A good business mentor will provide challenge and provoke thinking to help develop ideas. Business mentoring is a journey, with the mentee generally knowing what they want to achieve, and where they want to go. The mentor is there to help the mentee develop a route map to get to the various destinations on the journey in the most effective way possible. The mentor will help flesh out a route with the mentee, with warnings of potential pitfalls and things to avoid. The mentee – having listened, discussed, shared – will drive their business forward in the way they believe is right for them and their circumstances,” said Mr Machray.
Uncertainty in the business environment and the accelerated pace of change in 2020 mean that senior decision-makers need to draw on all the resources and support available to them.
“It is important to remember that leading a business can be a pretty lonely place. That's very true just now when the pressures are greater than ever, and everyone is looking to the owner or senior manager for answers. It is a strength to admit you don't have all the answers and to learn from others. Leadership development is about sharing ideas, exploring solutions with the teams and mentors you have. Get your goals clear, share those with the people around you, plan, and get on with the implementation. There's a huge amount of accelerated change in business just now, so building good leadership capabilities within growth businesses across our key sectors is critical for the future of north east Scotland,” said Mr Machray.
The new financial mentoring programme that ONE is developing with the professional services community will bring an extra dimension to its support to businesses.
“At critical points in any business, you need clear financial insight and understanding, and that’s where financial mentoring will help. It is all about knowing and interpreting the financial information you have available and asking whether you have a clear understanding of the messages this information is giving you. It’s also about identifying what you don’t have in place and aiding you to get the missing pieces so that you have all the necessary information to monitor and plan sufficiently. Doing this will help you to make well-informed decisions and provide you with the tools you need to run and grow your business. Also, the financial mentors can help and support on how to talk to investors, banks and government agencies, and how to put systems and procedures in place to succeed. It will also ensure that businesses seek the right professional support at the right time to progress their growth plans,” said Mr Machray.
Coronavirus continues to disrupt the economy, creating challenges for some businesses and new opportunities for others. Good leadership, planning and financial management, along with clear goals and strong teams, will be critical to securing jobs, the green recovery and delivering growth.
“Business mentoring, leadership development and financial mentoring are three things that can make a huge difference to the success of businesses. ONE invests in and delivers these activities because they help individual businesses to achieve their goals and enable sectors to diversify, innovate and grow. Sustaining ambitious and growing businesses will ensure north east Scotland’s economy provides jobs and rewarding careers for our young people, delivers a net-zero future, and creates prosperity for people and communities. So it is especially important that businesses engage with the sector teams at ONE and make the most of these support programmes over the coming months,” said Mr Machray.
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Opportunity North East Ltd
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