Business column: Why you need to grow to survive in business

Female mentors: From left, Morag Hutchison, Issy Urquhart, Mandy Laurie, Polly Purvis, Morna Simpson, Nicola McGouldrick, Lesley Little.
Female mentors: From left, Morag Hutchison, Issy Urquhart, Mandy Laurie, Polly Purvis, Morna Simpson, Nicola McGouldrick, Lesley Little.

Much has been said about business growth and the need to ensure that your business grows. The reasons for this are very clear: increased profitability, increased robustness and lower susceptibility to adverse conditions.

It is ultimately only businesses that achieve higher than average return that will enjoy longevity. Sad but true.

Mentoring involves an experienced person working with your business to discuss, prompt and guide you through the trials and tribulations of growth.

Mentoring involves an experienced person working with your business to discuss, prompt and guide you through the trials and tribulations of growth.

Tomorrow (April 22) the Scottish Borders Business Forum is hosting an event at the Council Chambers dedicated to the use of mentoring as a means of achieving business growth. The speakers will include Helen Anco, a previous writer of this column, Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Development International.

The event is hosted by the Federation of Small Business, Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce and the Scottish Borders Exporters Association, each with a key interest in the growth of the Border’s economy.

Mentoring involves an experienced person working with your business to discuss, prompt and guide you through the growth trials and tribulations; it is not about handing over the reins of the business to anyone else.

Entering into a growth journey is exciting and challenging and professional support helps but business leaders should not take this path lightly.

Mentoring initiatives are to be welcomed and promoted and any business owner or director interested in growth of any size should come along to this event.

Details are available from Moira Murray (01835 824000 mmmurray@scotishborders.gov.uk) or any of the sponsoring organisations.

From a personal perspective, I have spent many years mentoring in the UK and abroad including an interesting interlude in academia investigating business growth in small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and studying initiatives championed by the EU, Western Australia and Durham University Business School.

One common feature in these successful schemes was the use of self-selecting groups committed to meeting together monthly over an 18-month period, during which time they were taught additional skills. More importantly, they openly articulated their growth plans and reported progress to each other. These meetings may sound like counselling sessions, and perhaps on occasions they were, but the sharing of experiences and failures leads to better decision making and this leads to a clear improvement in growth. The critical features seemed to be a minimum of 18 months commitment, absolute openness and professionals available to teach key skills.

It might be the case that Borders professional practices, including my own accountancy business, look for ways to work with Business Gateway and each other to find ways in which we can facilitate such group learning, obviously in addition to guiding our own specific clients.

In the end it is only by creating wealth in the Borders can we ultimately improve our local services.

Hans Waltl is a partner of BCCA (Borders Chartered Certified Accountants).