“I was unfortunately unable to attend the AYP Mentor event at the beginning, business called, new contract to tender. So luckily Heather Sharkey, our commercial director, did a sterling job of presenting my case as to why I should be chosen as a mentor. As the days, then weeks, passed no one had contacted me or chosen me as a mentor. Others had been paired up and I was feeling left out and really disappointed. Then, out of the blue, I get a message that Yekemi wants to meet me. Heather says she has met her at the event and she is energetic and intelligent, then proceeds to hand me her CV. When I read it, I’m not sure who is going to be mentoring who.
We meet and Yekemi explains what she wants to do, a new venture using her business, marketing and engineering skillsets all combined. She explains where she is in terms of the business and I realise I can offer some useful advice as she is just setting off on her journey. We have had 3 meetings face-to -face and social events as we increase her network. The face-to-face meetings have focused around her business plan, now after some refinement it is looking like a document which gives proper direction to the business. She has refined her target markets, worked her USP, created a realistic cash flow, realised where she was under (and over) selling and really begun to build a strategy on how to maintain her clients alongside growing the business. The great thing is that she is working this out for herself and that’s what it’s about, putting it out there, thinking it over, bouncing it around and making a plan to be executed.
I must admit I was a little nervous about mentoring someone when I still hadn’t really got my own business truly established. I then thought about the mentoring that I had been offered. For me, it had been great but most of the mentors were already very successful, money in the bank, pension pot filled, mortgage paid off, gone through the whole start up thing a long time ago, mostly remembering the rosy bits. My company and I are a long way off that. Yekemi is only 3 years behind where we currently are which means a lot of what she will go through will still be fresh in my mind. Her business may well surpass mine and at some point the roles will reverse but in the meantime I’m enjoying giving all the help and advice I can, even if it is sometimes is just saying, “things will work themselves out”. Yekemi is a great person to mentor, I think the next year is going to be a lot of fun.”
“I had nearly given up on the idea of an ideal mentor. That was until I met Rob Cowman through the AYP Mentor Scheme earlier this year.
My first meeting with Rob was at the engineering company he co-founded, East Coast Oil & Gas. Rob is the Engineering Director. The fact that Rob is an engineer who founded his own company makes an ideal combination that came together by chance. You see, I am an engineer who has moved across several commerical roles in business development and strategic marketing with companies like Schlumberger, GE Oil & Gas and Lloyd’s Register. I have recently started my own strategic marketing consultancy, YO! Marketing, working with engineering, manufacturing and technology companies to strengthening the use of digital technology and marketing data in achieving business goals.
In our first meeting, Rob came across as genuine, and friendly. We discussed my plans for my business, my target market and how I might refine my solution to be most attractive to engineering firms. I found Rob to be easy to talk to and I had a sense that he will always be honest with me, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not.
True enough, Rob offered his honesty to me when I turned up at our second meeting with my business plan. For me, it was the first time I was allowing someone to sense-check my ideas. The first draft of my business plan felt like the birth of something I had carried for a long time. Showing it to Rob was nerve-wrecking, and a relief at the same time.
The discussion with Rob that day was the most valuable one I had about my business. He pointed out areas I needed to give more thought, and he offered advice about what I might prioritise in the early stages of my business. He helped me develop a punchier message for my target audience by asking me challenging questions that I couldn’t have asked myself. Rob being is an engineer has proven to be a gift. He is my target audience so his perspective has been very valuable in honing my solution to my target market. On the financial side, Rob is able to look at my cash flow forecast and tell to me multiply a line item by 1.5 to be more realistic. Which brings me to another reason I have the ideal mentor. Rob knows what it takes to start a company in Aberdeen. His insight on what things will cost me and mistakes I could avoid have really helped me get off to a promising start.
In our most recent meeting, I expressed concern to Rob about the new insights I was getting from meetings with potential clients. These insights suggested a slight tweak to my offering and being a perfectionist, I felt uneasy about making changes to my “perfect” solution. Rob assured me that it was exactly what starting a business was about. He gave me examples from when he started and the changes he made as new market intelligence became available. “It’s all about hearing out the market and changing,” he said. Even though I knew this as a marketer, somehow, I needed to hear it. Now I feel confident to take the necessary steps to move forward with my company.”