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Sage has a tip worth millions for small British businesses

The Boardroom

by Jimmy Nicholls| 06 June 2014

Firm's CMO warns of "British reticence" to lucrative strategy.

The UK's 4.9 million small business could stand to increase their profits by millions of pounds if they adopt a mentor to help them guide their business, according to business software firm Sage.

A survey conducted by the firm revealed that while nine out of ten British firms agreed that mentoring could help them, less than a quarter had enlisted someone to do so, with uptake among other countries as high as 52%

Amanda Jobbins, CMO of Sage, spoke of a "British reticence" towards the practice, in contrast to other countries the firm spoke to that "really understand the benefits of mentoring".

"My sense is there's something about that community of the family networks and friends networks that's quite important," Jobbins added. "It really comes down to building that network to find the right people."

Though the UK has a relatively low rate of mentoring, it's experience is not dissimilar to similarly developed countries such as Ireland, Germany and France, according to Sage's statistics.

Brendan Flattery, chief executive of Sage UK and Ireland, said: "Research has found that 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs."

The survey also revealed that the top two challenges for businesses were controlling costs and effective marketing, with around a third of businesses reporting those problem. A quarter of businesses also said they were struggling to broaden their customer base.

For those seeking out a mentor, Jobbins advised that they sought out those with experience of the particular challenge the business was facing, whether that was in terms of technical expertise, industry specific knowledge or business acumen.

She also noted a trend for "reverse mentoring" in which younger people advise businesses on technological and social changes between generations.

The vast majority of mentors enlisted to help businesses do so without payment, though others are employed to advise firms. As well as giving mentors a chance to sharpen their skills, Jobbins views the practice as emblematic of a "pay it forward culture" particularly prevalent in technology.

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