How learning from those with experience can help your business!

Cheltenham and across Gloucestershire

Specially written for by Nigel Knowlman of The Business Kitchen

A recent survey by Sage, the software company, found that two thirds of small and medium-sized businesses believe mentoring could help them expand, but only 22% seek support from an expert or industry veteran. It is also said that business owners need 40 different skills to be successful - what are the ways that Gloucestershire businesses can tap into expertise to help them grow?

Informal Networking

In the first Views column Jonathan Pollinger talked about the benefits of networking and gave some excellent tips on how to network more effectively and how to use Social Media to help you.

He mentioned Laptop Friday (LTF) a great networking and co-working event which takes place every Friday morning in Cheltenham.

Networking events are mainly about making contacts, building relationships and ultimately doing business. However gatherings like Laptop Friday can help businesses in other ways too. If you are a freelancer or work on your own you can often struggle to have all the skills you need to run your business. Your breadth of knowledge can also make it difficult to see lots of angles before you make a critical business decision. Laptop Friday attracts a broad mix of people with different skills and experience -  from copy writers to designers and web-developers to PR experts. Frequently at LTF you can overhear people using their skills to give advice or comments to help others with their business challenges. This is a great demonstration of how a thriving freelance community can support each other and business activity in Gloucestershire.

But what if you don't have access to a great gathering like Laptop Friday how can smaller businesses gain help to make better business decisions or gain new skills?

Courses and training

If you can identify the skills that you lack to grow your business it is relatively easy to identify local training courses or events that can fill the gap. Local organisations like Gloucestershire Enterprise offer a range of courses - and business groups such Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce often have taster courses which give you an introduction to business topics. Professional bodies like the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)  also run evening short courses which can help.


Talking it through - coaching and mentoring

Often it isn't specific training that is needed but more 1:1 support to help you review key business issues or help you to achieve specific goals. This is where the services of business coaches and mentors can be of help and can tailor their support to your exact requirements.

1:1 mentoring and coaching can be beyond the financial resources of many businesses - but there can be help from external bodies like The Princes Trust. The Government's Growth Accelerator Scheme co-sponsors coaches to work with businesses with high growth potential. In Tewkesbury and Gloucester this funding is topped up with additional support from their respective councils.


The power of groups

If you don't want to work with a coach or mentor how about working with a group of like-minded  people who can help chew over your business problems drawing on their own experiences? There are a few of these groups in Gloucestershire from national organisations like Entrepreneurs Circle to small local groups like CanDoCoffee and ReKindle which focus on a geographical area, an industry sector or women-only groups. My own group The Business Kitchen, which meets monthly, combines formal training with peer group support and target setting to help achieve those business goals.
So if you are an entrepreneur with a  great idea or a business owner who wants to grow then why not look at ways of tapping into the amazing business expertise that exists all around you in Gloucestershire?

If you have any tips on using the experience of others to help your business  , please share them on facebook or Twitter, mentioning @glosinfo and @thebizkitchen


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The Business Kitchen

The Business Kitchen runs regular workshops for business owners in the Cheltenham area to develop their menu of skills in a friendly, informal environment



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