Let’s imagine a scenario in which someone has newly been appointed as Finance Director of a business, perhaps after a number of years as an accountant. The company sees their potential and knows they’re ready for a new leadership role, but it’s not always a straightforward transition to make. The advice of an impartial mentor can be a great confidence boost and help to solve a number of practical issues – at both a tactical and strategic level.
Accountancy firms will often be able to offer a mentoring service to their clients. Five key areas in which a mentor can help a busy FD or business owner include:
Setting the company’s financial scoreboard – not merely looking at the accounts, but communicating meaningful information to the wider management team.
Forecasting financial requirements – thinking about cashflow, the input that may be coming from external funders, dealing with the bank and addressing invoice finance.
Managing the accounting function – building a team, although not necessarily working within it.
Liaising with external professionals – providing the tools to help in proactively managing professionals such as lawyers, bankers and financial advisers.
Managing corporate finance and capital requirements – overseeing the investment of venture capitalists, as well asset and bank finance.
In practice, there are a number of different ways of managing the relationship between a mentor and mentee. It can be as structured and formal as is required.
The parties can meet together for, say, an hour or an hour and a half on a monthly basis and simply tackle the biggest issue that’s currently on the mentee’s agenda. But the session can also be used to start drawing up a road map for the next six months. Or look ahead over a three or five-year timescale if the mentee happens to be, for instance, the owner of a small business who’s looking for an exit strategy.
Ultimately, though, one can think of a mentor as someone who can help to grow their business. Perhaps they’ll make a very obvious difference – helping to access money from a venture capitalist when a bank refuses to lend, for example. Or it may be that they’ll simply offer sound, impartial advice that will allow steady progress to be made, month by month.