Yesterday morning we welcomed 10 mentees from our current programme to our monthly virtual clinic, where they are able to network with their peers and share the challenges they are currently facing in their business. The session was supported by two of our mentors who were on hand to provide their experience and guidance as we discussed the topics of identifying your USP and hiring your first member of staff.
Many of the group are looking to break into existing markets where they face stiff competition and need a USP if they are to offer a credible alternative to their industry counterparts. The group discussed at length the benefits and pitfalls of using your service history as a selling point with individual experiences very dependent on the industry they are working in, we know that generally, the UK public respond well to service people, however the experience of one of our mentees was that when it came to basing management and leadership services on a military career, it quickly became a more difficult sell as the old stereotypes of marching and shouting came to the fore. On the other hand, when delivering services to the public, where word of mouth recommendation is king, it was the general consensus that people love a back story to the product/service that they are buying, particularly if they are spending a lot of money and plan to show it off. Our mentors agreed that there is a place for sharing your military history but warned that it is not enough on its own to make your business unique, you also need to have a solid business idea which fulfils a need not currently met.
Hiring staff is a milestone that most business owners will aspire to, but handing responsibility for part of your organisation to another person - or people - can be a daunting prospect for somebody who has put their heart and soul into it, sometimes for several years before they reach this point. We discussed the different ways in which you can minimise the risk to your business by considering using services such as virtual PAs and fixed term contracts and ensuring that you identify clear expectations of your staff prior to hiring. With several CICs currently on our programme, we also discussed using volunteers to deliver your programme, both at the point of delivery and with back-office support. Volunteers can be seen as difficult to rely on as they are giving their time for free, you may feel that too much pressure or asking them to carry out a task they aren’t interested in may put them off supporting you further. The group shared their own experiences of volunteering and what being part of a collective cause meant to them and agreed that for volunteers to commit to your organisation, you need to make them feel that they are really part of something and give them a community to be proud to be a part of.
The topics for the session were entirely guided by the current experiences of our mentees and it was brilliant to see not only our mentors providing guidance to a large group, but also the mentees attending delivering peer to peer support, based on their own experience of the current market.
If you would like to benefit from our support and the opportunity to participate in these networking opportunities, then please click here to find out more about our Mentoring Programme.