Small businesses should get the most out of experience available — knowledge is power and so is receiving business owner advice. Build your knowledge at which you can and do not enter something with your eyes shut. Brief yourself, get briefed by other people and in the event that you still have knowledge gaps, work with those who can fulfill them. If you can, reach out and be proactive to find your perfect mentor: I have quite a few mentors, I have always had mentors throughout my professional career. They tell me how it is, as they are frank and honest. They will help me but will not take the decisions for me. I believe that the mentor-mentee connection is a very personal one and one that must be worked at. If it’s a good one, it’s mutually beneficial and can open doors for you and your company.

You need to reach out and be proactive. Very good business mentors are busy running their companies. You need to attend important events — and might need to attend more than one to meet the ideal mentor, to network or to gain support for your business. If you discover someone you get on with and respect, never hesitate to ask them questions about who they are, and how you both may be able to help each other out within the networking field. To do this right, you have to know what networking really is: media is a connection. You can’t consider it in any conventional sense, you cannot box networking; you cannot explain it away using jargon. Networking with, and mentoring as small business advisors in its broadest sense is extremely easy, effective, and is about helping and supporting people.

A few quick top tips:

  • Help others, you never know who you will meet and who they know.
  • Attempt to work out which sort of networker is sitting before you.
  • Do not go into media events with the ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality, rather, connect and network with others with a positive mindset.
  • Developing a networked community takes time and dedication, do not think it will happen overnight, you have to work for it!
  • Be truthful with your answers, if you can not help somebody, say so.
  • Think dynamically about who you may be meeting, if you can not help them, perhaps someone in your network may.
  • Be engaged, do not be dismissive, do not forget the person you are talking to is passionate in their area too, and may just be looking to expand their own network.

When times are tough expert advice is invaluable. Some of the most advanced and fast growing companies have started up during recessions, since it is when markets change, existing suppliers fall out and the following recovery could give a boost to growth. However, economic conditions can be volatile and opponents can be very defensive about their rankings, so advice is vital. Financial management is critical since the creditworthiness of consumers can be unpredictable and when you sell on credit, you will need to make certain that you will get paid. A good accountant can make a major

difference and as a lender, we like to see that companies have sound financial systems and guidance.

Think hard about who will be the best match for your group. The best piece of advice I ever had was to be certain that you work with a group that matches your abilities and attributes. Do not recruit in your own picture. That way you compensate for any weaknesses, learn from their strategies and provide yourself the ability to play to your strengths. The same applies to a community or mentoring relationship.