Meet a Mentor: Pete Wilkinson and Michael Mitten

Posted on the 1 July 2013

Meet a Mentor: Pete Wilkinson and Michael Mitten

If an Ironman is looking for a mentor then there could be no better match than an entrepreneur who has trekked to the North Pole.

And while on paper Pete Wilkinson and Michael Mitten may look very different they share an ironclad resolve to succeed in their chosen fields – and to push themselves to the limit.

That’s why the Entrepreneurs’ Forum saw them as a perfect match and introduced them as part of its successful mentoring initiative, which is proving to benefit both mentors and mentorees across the region and from all sectors.

Sunderland-born Pete ran his own electrical retail business for years before taking time out in Spain.

“I wanted a business that was ideal for me, where I could use my skills but didn’t have to do the aspects I didn’t enjoy,” the 43-year-old explains.

“I was good at coaching and in my leisure time was also an Ironman triathlete. I then had the idea of adopting the principles of Ironman events into business.”

Being focused, not to mention fit, enough to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 miles was an ideal training ground for Pete to develop Iron Man Attitude, a professional speaking and workshop consultancy with clients ranging from £130m a year engineering and manufacturing businesses to accountants and doctors.

“I work with people who realise that where they are isn’t where they could be, those who finish work every day feeling unfulfilled, that they have expended 65 per cent not a 100 per cent of themselves,” he says.

“My mantra is be focused, be consistent, be amazing. It made me achieve my goal, and it can be applied to business - expectations lead to behaviours, behaviours lead to actions, actions lead to outcomes.”

With his own Ironman days scuppered by a knee injury in Spain, Pete was determined to continue building Iron Man Attitude, in particular growing the events side of his business.

As a member of the Forum, he was able to access the mentoring scheme and was put in touch with Michael who, at the same time was keen to offer his experience.

“I have gained a great deal from the advice of a mentor and wanted to give something back myself,” explains Michael, CEO of Houghton International Ltd, which supplies service and repair complex rotating electrical machines for the rail industry, energy, oil and gas, and industrial sectors.

He was able to help by linking Pete with a contact who helped him refine the way he was marketing himself, which led in turn to him being introduced to the leading CEO organisation Vistage.

As a result, Pete now has a number of engagements booked throughout the year.

To help him further, Michael has also drawn on his considerable experience running a family business, which turns over £5m a year and employs 77 staff.

Not only that, but his own determination to push himself in a physical way was something he and Pete had personally in common.

“I have been on the shop floor since I was ten and inherited a business with the potential to do more,” explains Michael.

“I had ideas and enthusiasm and drive which came from a background in sport. Then when my dad died within 18 months from lung cancer I wanted to do something to celebrate his life and support Macmillan Cancer.

“I skied to the North Pole in his memory in temperatures as low as -45 degrees. I learned a massive amount about myself and it really helped put my life into perspective.

“I had to train hard and put the business in good shape so I could safely leave it as, potentially, there was the risk I might never come back. I think I ended up with an old head on young shoulders.”

All this was useful experience to share with Pete. But as mentors often discover, the mentoring process is a two-way street that can help both parties and their businesses.

Michael adds: “What I’m discovering is that I am benefitting even more from the contact I am having with Pete; it’s a great two-way thing and you never know where our sessions are going to take you.”

“I also asked him to do a session with my management team which helped us realise that we weren’t communicating well or regularly enough, so my business has really benefited too.”

Michael appreciates there is always something new to learn and seeing Pete’s business flourish proves to be further inspiration for him.

“It helps me realise that I share Pete’s enthusiasm for life and I am now thinking of another expedition to the South Pole this time,” he says.

Pete added: “There have been real, tangible benefits to the mentoring: I made a contact through Michael that I wouldn’t have had before the mentoring sessions. That led directly to the process of developing products and materials and becoming the finished article, which resulted in me now being a regular speaker with Vistage.”

“I have numerous bookings with them this year, and that is leading to interest from other organisations. In every possible way, mentoring has really had a big impact on my business.”


For more information about our mentoring programme call Michael Dixon on 0191 500 7780 or email