How my business was helped by a company mentor

Robert West founded Benchmark Scaffolding in 1995 with two friends, using £25,000 of redundancy money. Since then the business has grown rapidly and West expects turnover to reach around £10 million this year. A company mentor helped him reach this milestone.

According to West, he has been able to achieve this level of growth partly because he utilises a company mentoring service for business leaders. The service is quite simple – once a month, he spends a day at a mentoring network run by TEC International, which involves a series of lectures and one-to-one sessions with a business mentor.

‘I had some management experience but coming from a scaffolding background and never having gone to university meant I needed to learn how to become a managing director. With the fast growth of the company, I found myself the head of 200 people without the skills to do it,’ he explains.

One of the biggest benefits of having a mentor, according to West, is that it encouranges you to take a more holistic view of your operation. ‘A lot of emphasis is not just on working – instead of having my head down, I’ve learnt to break off, stand back and look at the business from the outside.’

The help and assistance he believes he has received has been wide ranging, from issues such as restructuring the company to best practice advice on how to develop partnership agreements.

‘Attending the meetings has given me a chance to freshen things up when they’ve gone stale and given me a good stream of new ideas,’ acknowledges West.

The service sets West back around £9,000 a year, but he warns that it won’t be money well spent if you are not prepared to be honest about any problems you are facing.

‘If you have committed to going down this road and getting someone to help you, then there is no point unless you are upfront from the start. Be vulnerable and be prepared to take your guard down. It did seem awkward to start with and I did go along to the first meeting feeling sceptical. But I now have a clearer idea of where the business is going and everyone from my senior staff to my bank manager has noticed a difference in me,’ grins West.

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