Mentoring has been identified as one of the highest valued elements of Elevator's Accelerator programmes. In this guest blog, Rebecca Stewart of NRG Collective who took part in the Aberdeen Spring 2018 programme, gives us an insight into the input mentors had on her accelerator journey.
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What Has Mentoring Done for Me? Guest Blog by Rebecca Stewart of NRG Collective Ltd
When I started to think about putting this piece together, I wanted to try and break down what was good mentoring? It resulted in a great long list of words but eventually, in the end this is what I came up with, which for me sums mentoring up:
“Exactly the right words at exactly the right time.”
I arrived at Elevator with an existing business. I am a small independent publisher specialising in niche rare-disease publications. We had a great product - the magazine was amazing, and we even had great readership traction but we had two major barriers. Eighteen months in we still weren’t making any money, and we were also suffering from an acute case of 'imposter syndrome'. Elevator was our last-ditch attempt to make sure this business was more than an expensive hobby.
That was where we were when I rocked up at The Hub on day one to begin the programme. By day three I was drowning! I felt like I was over my head and out of my depth, but Accelerator Manager Jules Lancastle's role on the programme was to get us out of our comfort zone, keep us focused on the process, keep up morale and generally keep us in line, which I have to say Cohort 7 did not make easy for her.
I spent a lot of time looking at Jules’ lips moving but not having one clue what she was saying. However, her patience, perseverance and only occasional eye-rolling at my incessant questioning eventually led to two things - belief in the process, and a new confidence that came with a better understanding of my own business. So thank you Jules for sorting my BMC’s from the VPC’s!
However, there is no doubt one of the most valuable parts of the Elevator process is the mentoring, and every single one of the mentors had a profound effect on our businesses.
So here is my Mentor roll call.
Mark Kemp, Callum Sinclair, James Brown and Gordon Mackay - thank you for your expert advice, enabling me to draft documents, gain a successful trademark and also develop strategies for sales and new product development.
Ken Jones - thank you for giving us the light bulb moment that has become integral to our three-year growth strategy.
Thank you Steve Harrison for your never-ending enthusiasm and left-field thinking that teaches us the importance to allow time to create and innovate.
Jonathon Smith, I cannot thank you enough for your endless hours of support. For turning our cash forecast from a work of utter fiction into something that added up and for somehow managing to take the entire contents of my brain and turning them into an excel spreadsheet. This sheet took our unobtainable dream and turned it into achievable bite-sized goals, and we use it every single week.
Two mentors managed to have an impact on our business with very few words.
When Bob Keiller said, “Don’t become corporate”, I thought "what an odd thing to say to someone on an accelerator course for rapid growth with international prospects". However, as we got further through our Accelerator journey and my ideas of business began to be challenged, those three words gave me the confidence to stand by my belief that there is more than one way to do good business, and that I don’t have to change my core values to be good at business.
When Alastair Donald delivered his own six-word gem I was having a very bad week. I had just postponed our flagship launch event in London due to the 'Beast from the East' winter storm, costing us over £3000 which was pretty much our entire salary for that year’s project, and to top it off I had the flu (sorry again to all of you whom I shared that so generously with!)
Alastair was asking me some pretty tough questions on how much time I was spending selling. They were actually only tough because I was giving him my most compelling reasons as to why I wasn’t spending enough time selling. This is when Alastair drew another column on to the end of my cash-flow forecast and said, “there is no column for excuses”. There was the harsh reality.
Pep talk 101 over, I drove home feeling pretty sorry for myself. However, by the time I pulled into my driveway I had made a decision to pull on the big girl pants and make sure this business did not fail because I was making excuses. Those six words resulted in a complete restructuring of our business, made us have the difficult conversations we had been avoiding and ultimately, gave us our best chance at success.
So what has mentoring given me?
A toolbox, a new language, contacts, confidence to get out of my cupboard under my stairs and be an expert in my field. But most importantly, now regardless of the situation, I can take a step back, take a mentor out of my back pocket and find exactly the right words at exactly the right time.
And so, thank you all for being a part of my Rare Revolution.
If you are an ambitious entrepreneur with a scalable business or idea, see what Elevator's Accelerator Programme can do for you. Find out more by clicking here.Back to blog