Tap into the ICAS mentoring network
Being a CA means being part of a global network. And one of the strengths of that network is access to mentors who can offer valuable business and career advice. We speak to a mentor and a mentee about the benefits it brings
The mentee: Rebecca Berry CA
What was of most value from the mentoring relationship?
I started my own business last year and knew I had gaps in my knowledge, especially in sales and marketing. My mentor, Graham, had a strong sales background so was able to coach me in these areas. He is also a business owner and the knowledge he brought to the relationship was invaluable. I have no doubt the transition from employee to business owner wouldn’t have been as smooth without his guidance. I was experiencing a great deal of change in my career and Graham helped me navigate that and provided me with a safe space to reflect – which is even more important now I am my own boss.
Did you find the mentoring particularly helped you as a woman in business?
According to a KPMG survey, some 75% of female executives have experienced imposter syndrome in their career and I was no exception. In the early stages, you will experience rejection and possibly feelings of self-doubt. There is very interesting psychology around the difference in pricing strategies between men and women. Graham helped me recognise when my own fear was holding me back. We focused on the importance of having a pricing strategy and sales process to ensure you didn’t allow feelings of doubt to drive prices.
What would you say to other CAs who are unsure about receiving mentoring?
Do it! The calibre of mentors available through ICAS is world class. There is exceptional value in this relationship existing outside the constraints and politics of your organisation. Your mentor has no agenda, the relationship is wholly for your benefit and a safe space to explore potential weaknesses or changes away from internal influences. I now can’t imagine trying to navigate my career without a mentor or coach.
Has the mentoring replaced the support that you lost when you left a large firm?
Exactly this. I lost my line management when I started my business. Graham effectively filled that gap for me during my first year – a time when you most definitely need support. Having this accountability structure in place was crucial.
Which skills has your mentor helped you to acquire?
The sales and pricing focus was of huge commercial benefit. It also provided a platform for me to reflect on how I deal with situations. Graham gave me the tools to effectively self-coach. In a challenging situation, I would ask myself, “What would Graham ask me right now?” When selecting a mentor, I wanted someone who I thought might approach situations differently from me, and this is exactly what I got. His outlook has been so refreshing and it has helped me completely reframe my mindset – what I once considered a failure I now consider “absorbing” life as a business owner.
What have you learned about balancing your work and home life?
Being a mum to two young girls, I particularly appreciated Graham’s guidance in integrating all aspects of my life. He taught me that having a successful business doesn’t have to be to the detriment of family. By putting goals and processes in place that integrate all aspects of my life, I’ve been able to give myself permission to switch off outside work.
The mentor: Graham Little CA
Why are you a mentor?
Looking back on my career, I am now overtly aware I was screaming out for a mentor but was possibly too proud and too private to allow someone to provide support. There were many opportunities, informal and formal, but I just shunned them all. I know better now. This all changed when I stepped out of my comfort zone to retrain as a coach and start my own business. I discovered that allowing someone into my universe to talk through challenges and opportunities was massively beneficial to my personal development, decision-making process and mental wellbeing. It was empowering.
What do you see as the key to being a successful mentor?
Being absorbed in what the person in front of you wants to explore in that precise moment. Then, bolt on some powerful questions, empathetic listening and a high level of emotional and mental energy. Offer a safe space for ideas and let the mentee open up about what is important to them and their business. ICAS also provides some lovely insights as part of the introduction training process that are really beneficial as you begin mentoring.
What would you say to other CAs who are unsure about becoming an ICAS mentor?
What are you waiting for? Find your purpose for being a mentor and go for it – or go for it and the purpose will eventually reveal itself. There is so much to learn about people, leadership and business from a whole different perspective. As CAs we have much to offer and I believe it’s our responsibility to use our professional knowledge and life experience to support each other.
Your mentee recently started her own business – what support were you able to provide?
Through the mentoring process, Rebecca achieved a wonderfully focused mindset shift, from reacting like an employee to responding like a business owner. As a sounding board, it was all about supporting their confidence, resilience and courage. They found their inner human confidence and their outward business courage. One thing we should all do is to be kinder to ourselves in business ownership, especially at start-up. I think we supported each other in this respect.
As a mentor, what do you bring to someone in business?
I can provide the right balance of challenge and support, while also keeping the mentee accountable for their actions. I provide the space to reflect when generating new ideas for your business or career. I can support you to commit to taking the right next steps to find your business glow and the acute sense of purpose at its heart. And I can assist in setting short- and long-term goals for your business and helping to set a strategic direction.
Find out more about ICAS mentoring