Ask Mr Mills: Do I need a mentor and what should I look for when choosing one?

Published 28th May 2021 by Charlotte Grant-West
Ask Mr Mills: Do I need a mentor and what should I look for when choosing one? In our regular series Ask Mr Mills we’ve got MB’s Best Business Leader 2020 Joe Mills to answer your most frequently asked barber business questions – and this instalment touches on what to look for in a mentor.

Joe says: "How often have you needed someone to talk to, share a problem with or be a sounding board for a new idea? Then it could be time you took on a mentor.

They should have experience in your industry and ideally a seasoned professional who has a similar style of working to you. When you start up a business – or if you have been running one for years – it can be a lonely place as often, we do this on our own. Looking back to when I first started out in 1998 as a salon owner, I wish I had that kind of support and advice as there were a lot of mistakes I could have avoided and equally, there have been times when I have questioned what I do and how.

Now, I have set up my own mentoring programme and have been working with salon and barbershop owners since the start of the pandemic, offering advice and support and what’s most interesting is that there is a similar thread with each of them. It’s not about telling someone what they could do, but sometimes it’s more about having that person to bounce ideas off. I’m very straight talking and sometimes having someone being honest and not over complicating the process works wonders.

Over the last 12/14 months there have been challenges we have never experienced and sometimes having that support to work through these is what a business needs. Not all accountants and bank managers understand what we do or think outside of the box enough to help us when we need it. A mentor should be there to help you through this process and get you and your business where you want it. Many years ago, I was considering working with a mentor and they advised me to work more days and longer hours on the shop floor to increase my profitability, but what I wanted to do was to step away from the chair and work on the business and not in the business. I made the decision on how I could do this and what I would need to change within the business and then made that switch. This enabled me to run my businesses completely differently and opened up all sorts of opportunities, which in turn grew what we were doing. So, finding the right mentor is the key; there is no right or wrong person, but who fits with you.

So what should you consider – what is it you need? Is it someone who has been through what you are experiencing? Someone who can talk you through the pitfalls of a new project or is it simply you need accountancy and financial advice? Once you know what you want then the conversation should be who is best for this, do you like them and can you work with them? Also is this an open mentorship? Do you just need it from time to time? Initially start with a conversation; what is it you are looking for and how would you like that advice and support to work for you? Once you have that as a starting point the rest falls into place quite easily. I have clients that may be a once a month conversation and the other end of the scale sees me spending a few days a week working through systems and set-ups. At the end of the day, this is about getting you where you want to be with what you need and maximising the time you use and all of your mentor’s experience. You may not agree on everything; this is a working relationship and what this can bring to you and your business."


If you’re interested in Joe being a mentor for you and your business, you can drop Joe a message [email protected]
Charlotte Grant-West

Charlotte Grant-West

Published 28th May 2021

Charlotte oversees the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. With over a decade of experience as a journalist, Charlotte was formerly Editor of Modern Barber and HJ Men, Social Editor at Netmums and Features Writer at Boots Health & Beauty magazine. She loves any products that make her hair bigger and more voluminous, and loves a behind-the-scenes peek at anything hair-related – whether it's a factory tour, BTS on a shoot or backstage at fashion week.

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