Why Mentoring Matters
Posted on the 30 June 2013
Providing a platform and the connections for mentoring is at the heart of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s ethos – bringing people together for a mutually beneficial and rewarding experience.
In this case, Matt Atkinson, solutions director of Cleardata, found affirmation in the experience of his mentor David Frame, chief executive of Nine, who shared his wealth of knowledge to support a fellow forum member.
Here they discuss how having, and being, a mentor can be an eye-opening experience for both parties.
When former Royal Artillery sergeant Matt Atkinson, from Hartlepool, had expansion in his sights he thought it prudent to seek advice before investing his own money.
As solutions director for Cleardata, one of the largest document scanning and management bureaux in the UK, his aim was to grow the business further.
“After leaving the army and getting up to speed with IT I had worked with Computacentre at NatWest Markets, quickly rising through the ranks and picking up awards for my work during my ten years’ service. I was then head-hunted by Sage and worked for them for two years.
“I was thinking of starting my own business when my best friend Mark Bryce suggested that I speak to his twin brother David who was already running a business and doing what I wanted to do, so I joined him.
“I had a business plan for new products and was thinking of the best way to market and sell them. I had done this for the big companies but this time it was my own money and I wanted to make sure I got it right.
“I asked the Entrepreneurs’ Forum for help and they matched me with a mentor in David Frame. Working for big companies, you don’t really feel any pain of the decisions you make; working for yourself is different.
“David shared lots of lessons with me, both good and bad and talking with him reaffirmed a lot of the things I had already learned; it’s a great comfort to hear someone else talking about the experiences that you then realise you have shared.
“The other great thing about the mentoring is that I have come away with a really good friend and someone new that we are now doing a lot of business with.”
For software boss David Frame helping a seasoned campaigner like Matt helped the South Shields-born business leader refocus on his own experience and motivations.
“He was obviously an extreme talent coming into a new market. The mentoring scheme proves you don’t have to be a complete novice to ask for advice. It is one thing working for a big corporation and a completely different one when it’s your own life and you are risking your mortgage and putting food on your table.
“When it’s you and you are entering a brave new world, talking to someone who has been through it can really help.
“I trained as a secondary school design teacher but soon realised education wasn’t for me so I went to London and worked for a top end furnishings company in Chelsea Harbour selling £20,000 curtain ties to the rich and famous.
“After that I came back north and worked in telesales, field sales, for a business magazine and in advertising and public relations before setting up my own design agency. From there I bought into a soft are company, was trained up and became commercial director, before selling my shares to buy the software house DEF. We’ve built it up over the past four years as part of a portfolio of software companies, which includes Nine. It was the right move for me and it puts a smile on my face every day.
“When I was contacted by the Forum I was delighted to help because I am a strong believer in being nice to be nice.
“Matt and I talk a lot about intellectual property issues and recurring revenue models and I am more than happy to help someone learn from my mistakes and successes.
“The relationship has helped me refocus and sit down to think about what I do, what works and what doesn’t. I have also come away with a good friend and a great working partnership.”
For more information about our mentoring programme call Michael Dixon on 0191 500 7780 or email firstname.lastname@example.org