Manufacturing advisor Geoff Crossley explains why business leaders in manufacturing have more to gain from having a mentor than anyone else, and how the right mentor can offer not just knowledge, but can provide you with a sounding board, open doors to new opportunities and help you to boost productivity.
Tell me what your life is like
As an advisor, my job is to help manufacturers to grow and prosper in all manner of ways, from boosting production efficiency to creating a sales strategy. A good portion of this work could be defined as mentoring. Before getting into the nitty gritty of production schedules or process improvements, my first question to business leaders is often simply, “Tell me what your life is like?”.
Manufacturing is inherently more complex than the average business. For starters, there’s a lot more managing needed, not just of people but of equipment and machinery, too. In fact, there’s so many day-to-day tasks on the shop floor that managers rarely allow themselves the opportunity to step outside of their own bubble and learn something new. It can be a lonely existence.
The manufacturing industry is also in the midst of a fundamental transformation. Whether it’s the radical impact of the fourth industrial revolution and associated digital technologies, growing competition, energy and resource pressures, skills shortages or an uncertain economic future, there’s a lot on a leader’s plate, and anything that means taking time out from the frontline can seem like a big risk.
If this sounds familiar, mentoring could be the answer to your troubles. The beauty is that it’s risk-free – mentors are experts who come to you, offering their time and experience with no strings attached.
Mentoring for Growth
Be the Business in collaboration with The Growth Company’s Mentoring for Growth programme is tailor-made for SME manufacturers. Its innovative match-making service can connect any senior manager in your team to a network of over 1000 mentors from some of the biggest and most successful companies in the country, including GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens, BAE Systems and members of Manufacturing Champions in Greater Manchester.
The unique needs of manufacturers are built right into the programme’s foundations, as our People, Skills & Talent Lead, Dawn Duggan, explains:
“Mentoring for Growth stands out from other mentoring programmes because of the breadth and calibre of the expertise we can call upon.
"We match mentees with world-leading industry experts in their chosen field. Whether it’s process improvements, factory layouts, bringing in new product lines, importing and exporting, supply chain management or something else, there’s a perfect mentor for everyone.
“We’ve already had excellent feedback from the manufacturers who’ve participated so far. Our original pilot programme in 2018 matched mentors with 42 different manufacturers, so the initiative has had manufacturing at its core right from the beginning.”
Adele Entwistle, Resources Director at Manchester-headquartered manufacturer Closomat Ltd, was one of the first to benefit:
“I was delighted to be matched with a senior leader from Waitrose & Partners. With my mentor’s help, feedback and encouragement I was able to formulate ideas and think strategically about how I would establish a new in-house HR function, which is exactly where I needed to go with my career.”
A mentor doesn’t have to work with you on a specific project, though. Simply talking to someone can be a very powerful tool in and of itself, as Mick McGowan, Managing Director at Romix Foods in Wigan, learned:
“I was partnered with a great mentor and it was so easy to open up. As the person at the top it can be lonely and you’re often making a lot of decisions – so having a way to open up and speak about them is really valuable.”
Do you still need convincing?
If you're still not sure that mentoring is right for you, let's consider the potential benefits and outcomes...
1. It’s an opportunity to learn from the best
While having a mentor in a similar position to yourself can be valuable, you can learn far more from someone at a world-leading manufacturer. These companies will have a designated expert focused solely on the area you want support with, meaning you get matched to someone with the right specialisms.
2. It helps you escape your bubble
As a leader in a small business, getting honest opinions from those around you can be difficult. After all, if everyone is paid by you, they are less likely to challenge your perspective. This is a dangerous place to be. If you become too isolated, the world can begin to revolve around your opinions and your team will tip-toe around any negative results. A mentor can break that cycle.
3. It’s completely impartial
When money is changing hands, there’s no such thing as total impartiality. Unlike a consultant or business partner, a mentor has no ulterior motive – they can be completely open, unbiased and candid with you, and vice versa.
4. It gives you an outsider’s perspective
The best way to understand the true character of a business is to get an outsider’s point of view. A mentor can be totally objective, making them perfectly placed to notice something that you haven’t.
5. It’s not all talk
Mentoring often involves sitting down to discuss different approaches and business methods, but sometimes it can be as simple as seeing with your own eyes how another person gets things done. Having the opportunity to walk through your mentor’s factory can be an invaluable experience.
6. It can open doors
Mentoring is also a form of networking. The right mentor can open doors to a much wider network of contacts and resources you may not have been aware of.
7. It’s just an opinion
Your mentor is there to act as a sounding board for your ideas. At the end of the day, you’re not forced to act on their advice; it’s not a prescription. It’s just a way to health-check your decisions before you make them – never underestimate how powerful that can be.
Mentoring for Growth is designed for companies with 10+ employees and at least £2 million turnover.
The Manufacturing Champions offer events, mentoring and peer learning opportunities for manufacturing leaders. Join the next event.
Theme: Operational Efficiency People, Skills & Talent Leadership & Mentoring
Manufacturing Champions - Optimising workforce performance to boost productivityThis session will provide manufacturers with an understanding of the basic tools, techniques and support required to unlock productivity through their people.
Date: 17th October 2019
Location: Cargill, Guinness Road, Trafford Park, Manchester, M17 1SD
Time: 8:00am - 12:00pm