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A guest blog from ICE member, Kieran Abbott, co-founder of Big Lemon  who tells us why getting a business mentor has been one of the best things they’ve ever done.

When we joined ICE in February last year as part of the first ICE 50, one of the benefits we were most excited to use was a dedicated business mentor.

We had been running Big Lemon, a web and app design and development agency, for around 18 months and knew we needed to take things to the next level. Business was steady and we were slowly growing our client list, but we were struggling to see the bigger picture. We were spending too much time working in the business, and not working on the business.

That’s where Craig Palfrey came in.

Craig is a financial adviser at Penguin Wealth, and ICE matched us up to him a few months after we moved into our office.

If I’m being honest, the first time we met Craig was a bit… scary. No one had really looked at our business plan critically before, and the idea of showing it to a stranger and asking them to pick it apart was daunting.

Craig’s expertise, advice and knowledge made it all worthwhile. More than a year on, we still meet with Craig regularly. He listens to our ideas, grills us on our plans and offers advice, expertise and sometimes, most importantly, a sounding board.

Here are a few reasons why getting a mentor could be the boost your business needs to grow faster.

Get an outside voice

Like any business idea or plan, it’s hard to tell what’s right or wrong when you’re in the middle of it. Getting a mentor means you can regularly meet with someone who isn’t invested or involved in the business, and who has no preconceptions on what’s right or wrong.

We can always rely on Craig to be honest with us. Whether that’s honesty about a bad idea, or honesty about when we think we’re doing well and need to be brought down a peg or two.

Getting feedback from someone who isn’t our mums, or a mate, is essential. Sometimes it can be a bit brutal – we usually end up reconsidering our entire business plan afterwards – but sometimes it can be exactly what we need.

Take time away from the day-to-day

When you’re starting a new business it’s easy to get bogged down in actually doing the work.

Sitting down with Craig every few weeks gives us the time we need to think about where we want the business to be and how we want it to grow, rather than being stuck behind computers delivering the day to day work.

Be held accountable

While having a co-founder makes you accountable to one another to a certain extent, getting a mentor is a different kind of accountability. You’re not going to make yourself – or your business partner – feel bad about what they haven’t done that quarter, and you’re not going to make yourself feel bad either.

A mentor will.

I don’t mean for that to sound like they tell you off and put you on the naughty chair, but being forced to explain why you haven’t hit certain goals is a pretty good incentive for trying to hit them in the first place.

Look forward

Not only does working with a mentor give you the time to get out the office, it forces us to think long and hard about the future of Big Lemon; our goals, ambitions and desires for the company and for ourselves.

Its easy to forget to look past the next few weeks and months actually think about where you want the business to be in a year, five years or even 10 years. A mentor encourages you to do some serious forward planning, and asks to you show them how you’re going to achieve your vision.

This forward planning means that we’re more focused, strategic and thoughtful about everything we do when it comes to trying to grow.

You can read more blogs from Big Lemon on their website here.

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