Growth Through Mentoring connects North East businesses in all sectors with mentors who have first-hand experience of scaling a business. Since it was established in 2017, the programme has paired over 50 business founders with experienced mentors, with the aim of equipping them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to lead their business to the next level of growth.
An independent interim evaluation of the programme has been carried out to explore the programme’s impact and effectiveness to date. Helen Lee, Programme Manager – Growth Hub at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains the key findings.
Can you tell us why the evaluation report was commissioned?
We commissioned an independent evaluation of Growth Through Mentoring to examine the performance of the programme so far, including the effectiveness of the programme and its delivery model, to assess the impact and benefits for participants, and to identify key lessons which will help to inform the design of future business mentoring programmes.
What does the evaluation tell us about how mentoring has impacted on North East businesses?
Looking at the results of the evaluation, there is evidence that the objectives of Growth Through Mentoring are in the process of being achieved. For example, there is evidence that the programme is supporting businesses to achieve growth, with 50% of businesses consulted already achieving growth in turnover and/or employment, and more reporting that they expect to in future.
There has also been progress towards supporting the development of leadership capacity and strategic thinking. The greatest impact of the mentoring in terms of personal development has been on mentees’ strategic thinking and understanding, and business confidence, with 50% reporting a significant or good impact in both of these areas. 39% reported a significant or strong impact on leadership skills.
And what did the report reveal about the motivations of the business founders and mentees who took part in Growth Through Mentoring?
When it comes to motivations, mentees were primarily motivated to seek a mentor to support business growth, while a smaller number were driven by their personal and professional development needs. Mentors were primarily motived to volunteer for altruistic reasons, wanting to ‘give something back’. A small number also wanted to learn from what’s happening in the business community, and to build new networks.
How did business founders rate the quality of the mentoring they received?
The quality of the mentoring and the mentors is rated highly by the majority of mentees. All of the mentees consulted rated the professionalism, credibility, understanding of leadership and management, understanding of business growth, and strategic understanding of the mentors as good or excellent.
What did Growth Through Mentoring participants say they gained from the programme?
The evaluation has shown us that, according to the mentees, the most beneficial aspects of the mentoring are building confidence; developing skills; improving understanding of business issues; practical problem solving; taking time out from the business; independent confirmation and validation of the mentee’s approach; and the ability to discuss business issues with someone external to the business. In some cases, these improvements have already led to tangible benefits for the mentee and their business.
One mentee commented that mentoring has ‘equipped me with the skills and techniques to be a much more effective business leader’ while another said mentoring had helped ‘with my strategic thinking, and how I think about the future growth strategy’.
Looking at the evidence from mentors, we can see that mentors say that participating in the programme has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience, which has helped to improve their mentoring skills – for example, through learning to adopt different approaches for different people, and helping to build confidence as a mentor.
Mentors also said that taking part in the programme helped them to develop a fresh perspective for their own business as a result of experiencing a different business environment, or having their own ideas challenged as part of the mentoring process. This has enabled some mentors to review and improve their own business operation.
Has the evaluation resulted in any changes being made to the programme?
As a result of the evaluation, we’ve made some small changes to the way Growth Through Mentoring is delivered.
Previously, mentees would have three sessions with their mentor. The evaluation highlighted that mentees felt more time with the mentor would be valuable and provide an opportunity to explore more business issues or explore issues in more detail. The evaluation also identified that most mentors would be willing to offer a little more time. As a result, mentors now offer an introductory session and then move to three mentoring sessions.
Overall, the findings of the interim evaluation have been positive and we have a real desire to build on the success of the programme so far and to support even more business leaders in the future.
Read the full interim evaluation report here.
Growth Through Mentoring is open for applications from business founders who would like to be matched with an experienced mentor. Find out more.