ICAS launches business mentoring scheme

Business mentoring
By Alice Telfer, Assistant Director, Business Policy & Public Sector

10 June 2016

ICAS has launched a new initiative to help match businesses looking for an experienced mentor with CAs who can help them.

The ICAS business mentoring scheme originated with a one-year pilot programme undertaken by ICAS in partnership with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce. CAs have also successfully mentored businesses through Entrepreneurial Spark.

For our pilot programme, ICAS identified CAs willing to mentor a start-up on a voluntary basis, while the Scottish Chambers of Commerce matched the mentors with businesses and monitored progress.

An independent study of the pilot concluded: “The programme is highly regarded… participants … have had an overwhelmingly positive experience that has made a real benefit.” Feedback from the businesses was also very positive.

Neil Woodcock CA is a former Big Four firm partner who took part in the pilot scheme as a mentor. His first mentee was a sole trader with a car valeting and accident repair business.

Neil says: “His opener was ‘I’m stuck in a rut’. After talking to him I realised he was doing the right things, but he needed to look at his execution. Then we looked at his margins – he made a change on the basis of that and it had a dramatic effect.”

More recently, Neil has been referred to mentor a businesswoman with an engineering background, who set up a renewable energy company.

He comments: “It’s not rocket science, but it’s using the skills you have, helping the mentees to keep it simple. The main thing is to listen, listen, listen! Very often they have the answer, but you just have to help them articulate it.”

How the business mentoring scheme works

The business and finance experience of CAs is highly valued.  External organisations such as the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Entrepreneurial Spark help to match businesses looking for support with mentors.

Entrepreneurial Spark is growing its presence across the UK. Find out more about what Entrepreneurial Spark is on YouTube.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has an established programme for growing businesses. They also deliver mentoring programmes in Scotland for the British Banking Association and Sport Scotland.

Mentors should have experience at a senior level and knowledge of SMEs. Good interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the ability to be an effective listener, are essential.

Details of the relationship are largely down to the mentor and mentee, and may vary depending on the organisation leading the mentoring match. Typically, an engagement may last 9-12 months and include face-to-face meetings or telephone discussions.

There is no specific time commitment, but up to four hours per month is suggested.

Mentoring involves providing an outside perspective, supporting the mentee, asking questions, giving feedback, sharing experiences and respecting confidentiality.

It is usually on a voluntary basis. It is not about selling services, providing investment, giving specific advice, or doing specific tasks such as writing the business plan.

Find a business mentor

ICAS has developed a publicly accessible register of CAs willing to mentor businesses.

The aim is to open up our membership so any organisation looking for a business mentor can contact our members directly using the new public register.

Find out more

ICAS is looking for more business mentors who are eager to give something back, so if you think this might be for you, email businessmentoring@icas.com. The ICAS business mentoring scheme was initiated by the ICAS Business Policy Committee.

Other mentoring opportunities from ICAS

Career Connect - ICAS mentoring programme

Career Connect is the only global virtual career mentoring programme in the UK. The programme is free and accessible for all CAs, all in a trusted environment. Sign up and experience the power of mentoring in the next chapter of your career.

ICAS Foundation mentoring

The ICAS Foundation offers mentoring opportunities for CAs. All ICAS Foundation mentors will be supporting students or school pupils who want to go to university to study accountancy or finance.


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