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The Power of Mentoring

Behind every business success story you will find great people, something our region prides itself on having in abundance. A quick visit to any ‘about us’ web page and you’ll discover the business leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, shareholders, grass-roots operatives and customer service teams that drive the business forward, but it’s often the people not named here that are having the most impact.

The relationship between an entrepreneur and their mentor is perhaps the most important of all, something backed up by almost half of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum members citing a mentor or coach as their key source of business advice; after only their accountant and the Forum itself.

It is reassuring for business people, as it is for professionals in any field, to be able to draw on the experience of people who have been there and done it all before. While success in business, especially in the early phases, comes down to the drive of the founder and their team, mentoring can help entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls and see opportunities as they arise and the business grows.

There are many different kinds of mentoring arrangements, some formal and some informal, some free and some paid for. These can take the form of a cup of coffee and a chat from time to time, or a more structured, planned programme, and can come into place by chance or by the individual actively seeking a mentor.

The kind of advice provided by a mentor varies from person to person, and depends on circumstance. From strategic advice, and ideas about motivation and management, to financial control and international marketing, no business subject is off topic.

As with any relationship, that of the mentor and mentee only works when both parties are committed and play their part. The Entrepreneurs’ Forum Mentoring Charter expresses that a mentor should act as an altruistic, wise friend, offering advice and counsel and providing constructive feedback. It defines the role of the mentee as someone who asks questions, listens to the answers and recognises the value in not leaping to the defence of all their own views and actions; being open to the mentor’s suggestions, but also responsible for their own decisions and development.

As an organisation we were proud to name James Robson of Alexander Jewitt & Co. our Mentor of the Year, at the North East Entrepreneurial Awards. This award celebrates the importance of people who offer their time altruistically to support their peers, helping them to overcome the barriers to business growth. James joins Alastair Waite, who won the inaugural award in 2015, in our hall of fame.

As a business support organisation, we run regular mentoring drop-in sessions for our members, which allow them to spend an hour with an experienced mentor, confidentially discussing challenges faced in their businesses. Some of these sessions provide one-off support that allows an entrepreneur to triage an issue or take on an opportunity, and some result in long-lasting, mentoring relationships and friendships.

I’m really encouraged the North East LEP sees the value of mentoring as part of its effort to support businesses to scale in the North East and I am keen to support this as much as I can through my new role as Business Growth board member.

Mentoring is a two-way process and there are no guarantees but, whether it’s a long-term relationship or a specific answer to a specific question from an entrepreneur who’s been through the same experience, the impact of having a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction can be business changing.


Gillian Marshall, chief executive at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum

Home / Gillian Marshall

Top business leaders join North East LEP business growth board

Four of the region’s most respected businesspeople have joined the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) business growth board to help lead its strategic direction and delivery.

Gillian Marshall, Jacqui Miller-Charlton MBE, Sandra Thompson and Ryan Maughan bring vast public and private sector experience to the board, having reached the top in their respective industries.

Their appointments continue a rich vein of business talent who have committed their time and expertise to the LEP.

The North East LEP business growth board is crucial in making sure that the support and finance exists that enables more people to start and scale up their business.

The new members will replace outgoing members Julian Leighton, Allison Thompson, Rob Earnshaw and James Hall.

In addition to the latest changes, Mark Thompson – managing partner of Ryder Architecture – will take over as chair of business growth board –from Paul Varley.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair, said: “We are delighted to welcome four exceptional business people onto our board whose skills, expertise and business insight will be crucial at a time of great challenge for the North East economy.

“Their experience of business at the highest level will bring clarity of thought and oversight which will help us in developing our clear programme of activity to support growing and scaling business.

“I’d like to thank the outgoing board members for their dedication and hard work which has proved invaluable to our organisation and to welcome Mark Thompson into his new leadership role with our business growth board.”

The new business growth board members are some of the best known names in North East business:

• Gillian Marshall – chief executive of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum which has an exceptional record of supporting the region’s growth agenda. It brings the North East’s entrepreneurs and business leaders together, providing the opportunity to learn, share and create opportunities to boost wealth and job creation. Gillian is a successful executive working within business support and finance across the UK. She has extensive knowledge of public and private sectors, including international trade and finance.

• Jacqui Miller-Charlton MBE – A business professional with over 33 years of operational experience. She is the main board director and shareholder of Miller International Limited, one of the leading privately owned global attachment manufacturers supplying the world’s largest construction machinery brands. Jacqui has an outstanding track record of leadership in sales, marketing, brand creation, commercial negotiation, business development and international growth strategy.

• Sandra Thompson – Newcastle partner at accountancy group EY. Sandra is currently UK Audit leader for entrepreneurial and fast growth businesses at EY and will be taking on the role of Office Managing Partner for the Newcastle office in July 2017. Originally from Northumberland, Sandra brings with her over 25 years’ experience in audit and accounting. Working mostly with ‘Big Four’ firms Deloitte, PwC and EY across the UK, Sandra was also previously Group CFO of an AIM listed business, Digital Globe Services.

• Ryan Maughan – managing director of Cramlington-based AVID Technology Group Limited. Ryan leads a talented team at AVID, developing technology solutions to improve the efficiency and emissions from vehicles and machinery through smart electrification. He has vast engineering experience in high performance motorsport and precision component manufacturing sectors. Ryan has led acquisitions and disposals of business units to major corporates and also successfully raised business funding across a range of industries including oil and gas, chemical process, defence and electronics manufacturing.

Of his new role as chair, Mark said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to build on the foundations established under Paul Varley’s leadership.

“With the calibre and passion of the new board members, I look forward to making great progress in the pursuit of more and better jobs for the North East economy.”