What could a mentor like Lord Sugar do for your business?

Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

When Mark Wright won The Apprentice, he got more than a £250,000 investment in his marketing business, he had something money can’t buy. Here he explains what working with Lord Sugar meant to him

For me, the ultimate Apprentice prize was the opportunity to receive the one-to-one guidance from Lord Sugar. Working in the same office as him for the first years of my company taught me so many invaluable lessons that couldn’t simply be gleaned from reading a book.

In the business world, the power of a good mentor is a known fact, and the statistics back this up. CNBC reported that 91 per cent of workers with a mentor are satisfied in their jobs, while SCORE found that 30 per cent of entrepreneurs reported increased growth in their business after just one interaction with a mentor, rising to 43 per cent with five or more interactions.

With the likes of Bill Gates receiving mentorship from Warren Buffet, or Mark Zuckerberg from Steve Jobs, it’s clear to see a direct link between solid mentoring and high performance in the corporate world.

When you consider the average lifespan of a new start-up is just 20 months, according to Salesforce statistics, having a good mentor can be the difference between your business making it or not.

Inc.com reported that 70 per cent of mentored small businesses survived more than five years, which is staggering when you consider that it’s almost double the rate compared with non-mentored businesses over the same time period.

Lord Sugar’s advice was to ring  and say, “Hi, my name’s Mark Wright, you’re suing me and Climb Online, now f*** off.”

A good mentor can anticipate the common downfalls of new businesses and offer precious guidance on how best to navigate them, so it’s unsurprising that 88 per cent of businesses owners have said that having a mentor was invaluable to them.

Mentors that have successfully scaled their own businesses can help you drive growth in a similar way, as they can readily identify any adjustments that need to be made to ensure a positive impact on the bottom line, without affecting your product or service delivery.

About three months after winning the Apprentice, my company Climb Online, was facing being sued by a company for IP. It was a big stress so early on in my career, so I rang Lord Sugar for advice on how to handle it.

Lord Sugar’s advice was to ring the switchboard of the company, ask to speak to whoever it is that is suing you and say to them, “Hi, my name’s Mark Wright, you’re suing me and Climb Online, now f*** off.”

He told me you only get one chance to make a reputation in business and you need to build a reputation that shows you can’t be messed with.

Experience truly is the greatest teacher and working with a seasoned mentor gives you the opportunity to learn lessons not just through what they say, but how they act in business.

It’s difficult to not be inspired by the achievements of a good coach, and this can be a strong motivator for achieving your own goals in business.

A mentor can also help with opening doors that might otherwise be shut to you. Their time in business will usually come with a much greater circle of influence and a long list of contacts that a mentee will benefit from.

They may not have all the answers, but will most likely be able to connect you with relevant and mutually beneficial contacts, service providers and investors, that will assist in expanding your own circle of influence.

Let’s face it, your business is your baby. It’s easy to become attached to a particular strategy or way of doing things, and risk stagnation due to tunnel vision. A mentor is like a drone, they can hover above your business without being entrenched in it, offering clarity and insight in places you might otherwise overlook.

Having that objective perspective allows mentors to more readily recognise problems and opportunities, whilst also identifying weaknesses. On the flip side, it also keeps you accountable, as they can challenge you on why you’re spending your time in a particular way or on areas of the business that are struggling because of a certain line of approach you’ve decided to take.

They also force you to articulate problems and ideas in a clear and concise way

Running your own business can be a lonely and isolating experience. It’s no secret that business is tough, but having a mentor with similar experiences is invaluable in reassuring and navigating you through the tougher periods

Most importantly, they can act as a sounding board that won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but will actually provide you with useful, experience-tested feedback.

They also force you to articulate problems and ideas in a clear and concise way, stopping you from getting bogged down in the irrelevant detail during times of elevated stress.

We don’t often link business with emotion, but having a high emotional intelligence is directly correlated with high performance. Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, developing productive working relationships, and how you act under pressure are all key skills in business.

A good mentor can give you direct feedback on how you come across through your words and actions. This guidance is invaluable in enabling you to effectively coach your leadership team and in collaborating and delivering constructive feedback to your employees on an individual or group basis.

Put simply, having a solid mentorship is a no-brainer. No one is expected to know it all when it comes to business but having the right guidance and support from an experienced mentor doesn’t just help you on your business journey, it helps you to put your business first so it can flourish and grow.

Mark Wright is a BBC Apprentice Winner and Founder of digital marketing agency, Climb Online


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