I’ve been a business mentor for many years.

Shaun invited me to add some of my thoughts to the Thompson Balch website and I am delighted to do so and meet you all.  So who is this woman with the funny name and what is her take on the world? I trade as Elizabeth Toogood Insightful Business Mentor but what does that mean?

I am a businesswoman of mature years – well old really! I have been working for over 50 years having started at 12 with my mother in her wine shop. My career proper began in road transport and has spanned retail, motor retailing and consulting in both big limited companies, privately owned businesses and my own businesses. If you want to know more then get in touch and I will tell you some of the stories of crises, chutzpah, strikes and serendipitous events. I am now a business mentor helping people develop their enterprises effectively to deliver whatever outcomes they aim for.

My shorthand is this “ Helping you and your business grow. Together we find your focus and craft the plan to build your success. Together we’ll create your legend, we’ll make it a reality”.

Of course, this is different depending on the circumstances but let’s unpick this.

01234 273644 / 07968 822275

hello@elizabethtoogood.com

elizabethtoogood.com

March already, and we live with hope

My thoughts and my heart are with Ukraine at this very difficult time, it is devastating to hear the news and unsettling for us all. I encourage you all to support this community as much as you can, one donation point that I know of is The Gordon Arms in Bedford. 

It is March. Thank goodness the winds and storms of February are over. I hope that you did not suffer because of them. Before the weather took a turn for the worse I visited Anglesey Abbey to see the snowdrops and be reminded spring is coming. Then March came in with St David’s Day and all those gorgeous daffodils (and leeks if you insist!). Spring is now well on its way with all its glories. Then on 17th March we will all be drinking Guinness to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Before we know it we will alter the clocks and start to enjoy longer days. March is a good month. Happy springtime!

So what is on my mind. 

Recently I have enjoyed a number of functions in the real world and found myself answering the question “what does a business mentor do?” Lots of people have come across the coach who promises to double turnover in two minutes. That always seems a bit optimistic to me. There is also a whiff of “I will run your business for you”. My offer is more nuanced. 

I do think that business is simple – in theory. Just find a service or product that people want; produce it consistently well, at a competitive price, attractive to the punter and control your costs to make a healthy profit. Simples! 

Mentors do get involved in all that but there is far more to it.

One of the best mentors I have heard of recently was the late great Barry Cryer. Barry wrote comedy scripts for greats like Jack Benny, Spike Milligan and Morecombe & Wise but he was better known to this generation for his appearances on Would I lie to you (not often enough) and I’m sorry I haven’t a clue as a regular. When he died in January everyone he worked with in the comedy world praised him and clearly valued his friendship. They spoke of him always phoning them on their birthdays and telling a joke – he found the time to make so many feel good. But mostly they spoke of his understanding of the comedy business and his encouragement; he laughed at their jokes. He did it by building on what was going well. He helped people find their niche and develop their unique skills.

I think this is key. The boss makes or breaks an organisation. Good mentors help the boss.
One of the functions I went to recently was a reunion of people after forty years. Back then when dinosaurs roamed the earth it was part of my job to know the people who were in that room in their heyday. They were nearly all MDs or very senior specialists. I knew them in a way they would never have dreamt of – I had to understand their management styles and how they motivated others to perform at their highest level. I knew how well they were running their operations, what their strengths were, the environments in which they thrived, the problems they were good at solving and those which challenged them. I knew their flaws. Obviously there was a spectrum, some had a deft touch; some were more overt and some were positively in your face. Some of them were brilliant at motivating others. Most of them had the range of skills needed to greater or lesser effect. Some were great at managing today and planning for tomorrow and next week. None of us is perfect but most of them did not get in their own way or prevent those around them performing to their best ability. Most of them ended up as round pegs as in round holes. Bosses who delivered results and did well for themselves and their businesses. 

Your job in your business is to understand yourself and ensure that you develop, motivate and energise your team. You are the captain of your ship or maybe the commodore of the squadron. Do not get in your own way. Learn to recognise the things that pull you off course and put them to one side – your stuff is your stuff. It is personal and serves no purpose in the business. However it can dictate how other people work day to day. If you bring a black cloud to work it infects others. If you show your fear it frightens others. These things cause people to go into “freeze” and they end up non-productive and hating work. Your job is to draw out the best from your people. People are different, some thrive on honey and some on vinegar – we may not treat them in the same way but it must be equitable. Some people are in our employment, some are freelancers. There are so many different ways of working but as the boss your job is to create an atmosphere where each person can exercise their full expertise for you (and you get great value for money).

And that is what I do as a business mentor. I help people discover their own strengths and where they get in their own way. We work together to understand where they lead well and what presses their buttons and brings out their worst behaviour. We are all unique. For some of us managing people is easy or seeing the long game or charming customers. Others have to work harder. We may have to find ways to melt away the blocks; the things that stop us getting where we could be. The most telling difference is how people react to pressure, do they get calmer as the temperature rises or more fraught. Do them bring out the best in others or do they regress and make everyone more anxious, do they fall back on micro management and making everyone frightened to make a mistake. We all know that feeling; the more we are watched the more likely we are to drop the ball. And worst of all we stop thinking for ourselves but become a child again waiting to be told what to do by Mum or Dad. None of this will make your business thrive as it should.

My job is to help my clients understand these things about themselves so they can be at their best and make the money they should.

This is not always easy stuff. However if you are a business owner your success depends on being at your best and bringing out the best in others. It means you should try to understand yourself and use the information to be the best you can be consistently..

If you recognise the importance of what I say then perhaps we should talk. If as you read this it resonates with you or someone you might know; if you like my ideas and values; if you want to develop your business or yourself; then please give me a call. I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. If you want an objective view of how things are in your business pick up the phone now and let’s have a chat.

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