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Mentoring for creatives

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Enterprise education and professional development are critical to growing the nation’s talent and businesses. But in these cash-strapped times, where can businesses find the help they need?

At Nesta, we’ve been looking at mentoring as one way of meeting this need effectively and at a relatively low cost.

Our Creative Business Mentor Network, which opened last week for a third cohort of applications, demonstrates how, with a little bit of organisation and some generous support from volunteer mentors, you can have a huge impact in helping creative businesses to thrive.

Businesses in this sector are often set up by people whose creative talents outweigh their business acumen and mentoring is a great way of learning these skills. All businesses in the creative sector should think about the benefits of being a mentor or finding one to help them.

Given the right set-up, all mentoring takes is a more experienced person giving up a bit of their time to help nurture someone who’s looking for help. In addition, a mentor is someone you can be completely honest with, a sounding board and someone objective and removed enough to see the bigger picture.

It can be lonely at the top. Having an impartial, objective arm’s length perspective can be a welcome offering.

In business mentoring, the idea of industry giving back to industry is a popular one for those who have achieved success and want to pass on their expertise.

And we’ve seen our mentors get a lot out of mentoring too. Reasons for being a mentor include being able to spot new trends as well as connecting with the next generation of business folk.

Nesta has an incredible line-up of 30 of the industry’s leading lights as mentors for this year’s programme including Patrick McKenna, Ingenious Media; Alex Graham, Wall to Wall; Andy Payne, Appynation; Heather Wright, Aardman and Debbie Manners, KEO Films to name just a few. With their help we are very much looking forward to making a long-lasting impact when we match them to the UK’s brightest businesses.

To begin with, we will be focusing on businesses in the advertising, digital media, film, games and television sectors. We know these sectors are packed with established businesses that burst at the seams with talent; by introducing an experienced executive we hope to unlock the potential of good creative businesses and help them develop into world beaters.

Here’s a good example. Distilled, a digital media business that specialises in online and search marketing, shows how business mentoring can make a tangible difference to your future performance.

Founders Will Critchlow and Duncan Morris took part in last year’s CBMN programme and were matched up with mentor John Varney, the founder of Maximum Clarity. With John’s guidance, Distilled addressed its customer-facing activity and brought a rigorous eye to profit and loss which enabled them to confidently take long-term strategic decisions, including embarking on a merger with an American company as a first step to international expansion.

So why should Real Business readers take part in Nesta’s Creative Business Mentor Network? It’s a 64,000 dollar question perhaps, but one with a simple answer.

For ambitious creative businesses that have done the hard work of starting up, winning clients and delivering great work, this is the perfect opportunity to achieve your business aspirations.

Our business mentors have a breadth of expertise that can give fresh energy and experience to any challenge in any sector. Nesta has tried and tested business mentoring and we know it makes a difference.

So the message is simple: if your business hasn’t yet got where you want it to be, this could be the catalyst to fulfilling your potential in the future.

Jon Kingsbury is director of creative economy programmes at Nesta.

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