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Tech Manchester is Changing the Face of Mentoring. Find the One That Fits You.

One of my greatest achievements in the world of business was taking a new-start company from a turnover of nothing to just over 1.3M in under 3 years. Now that looks pretty good on a CV and it was, without doubt, one of the most rewarding periods of my life. It was also one of the most stressful, brain achingly difficult too…(and I’m saying that as a father of 3 boys).

I worked seven days a week, took sales and support calls at daft o clock all the time. I was consumed by the business. I spent more time with my business partner than my wife and, at the time, very young family. I never felt able to switch off.

If there was a decision to be made about the business, big or small, then I had to be involved in it. We delegated certain roles within the business. My partner would handle more of the finances, I would focus on the business development and sales. For everything in between it would be all hands on deck.

I thought we had a system that worked. It was, after all, a system that had helped to grow a business from a small office, with one single rack of stock, to a 2000 square feet warehouse and a separate retail outlet. Nobody new my business as well as me. It was my life. I lived it. I had the bags under the eyes and the new-start “thousand yard stare”. Unfortunately I was staring inwards, not outwards. I just didn’t see it coming…

When the recession hit it turned out that the foundations of the business were not as solid as I thought (although hints had been given I had not acted on them. Too busy being busy I guess). Almost over night our commercial clients stopped buying and our consumer business evaporated. The business failed within a few months.

It would be pretty easy to blame a global economic meltdown (and I did….) but looking back on this hugely significant period in my life I honestly think that my attitude of “no one knows my business better than me” was a big reason in the business failing. I may have known a huge amount about my business in terms of the products and our customer base but I didn’t know anywhere near as much as I should have about business in general, especially the pitfalls (of which there are many).

Looking back what I really needed was a mentor, both for me and my business.  I needed someone who had been around, ideally been successful in a similar business, but more importantly, someone who had made mistakes. Someone who could highlight a situation they had been in which would actually mean something to me. Someone who could have helped me plan for the future, for the good times and the bad. During the really stressful periods, when I really didn’t know which way to turn, the last person that I should have been confiding in was a business partner who was as stressed and as, well, scared as me.

A mentor would have given me that breathing space to talk through problems and discuss possible options. Just to get out of the mind set of the moment would have been a huge benefit at the time (even before things took a turn for the worse, actually, especially before things took a turn for the worse).

Looking back I should have sought out a mentor, no matter how busy I was, I should have made time to be successful. If you’re a new-start tech company, based in Manchester, you don’t need to make that same mistake.

Tech Manchester, is a not-for-profit project funded by UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones. It aims to offer tech start-ups an opportunity to learn from those that have been there and done that.

I recently attended the launch for Tech Manchester and my hugely positive feelings on the night were confirmed when I met with project lead Patricia Keating at the UKFast offices a week later. There is a real passion to seek out and support both the Mentors and Mentees that will make this project a success.

Tech Manchester will reinforce Manchester’s growing ambition to be the UK’s leading digital and tech hub, of that I’m sure, and MancMade for one will be behind them all the way.

Visit Tech Manchester. Make sure that you make the time to be successful.

2 comments
  1. Lawrence Jones

    This is a brilliant blog, written so honestly. It’s a story that is not uncommon. What is uncommon though, is the openness. It’s very easy to paper over the cracks when you are stretched to capacity, when there are not enough hours in the day. For most of us, it’s not easy to talk about our failings, but when we do…. this is when we know we are truly learning.
    I remember those start up days very well and the struggles Gail and I went through setting up UKFast.
    Each era has its celebrations and it’s pitfalls. It’s essential we continue to grow and develop at every stage and continue to search for the answers. TechManchester is here to help us all help each other, whatever level we are at.
    Thank you for sharing your story and for your kind words.
    Best LJ
    UKFast

    1. mancmade

      Hi Lawrence. Thank you for taking the time to respond to the blog. It means a lot. Although, at the time, it was a painful experience, one of the better things to come out of it is MancMade. What started out as something to help promote Manchester businesses has become a growing, engaged online community. MancMade is helping to promote and support as much of the Manchester based talent as we can, the talent that makes Manchester one of the most creative and innovative places in the world to live, work and play. We’re kind of like Tech Manchester really (but without a slide..). Cheers, Paul.

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