What happens when you work with a mentor?
As a small business owner, you have to watch the money you spend. It has to work very hard for you. So, when you decide to invest your money in a mentor, you want to know what to expect.
I interviewed one of my mentees, Sam Lendergran, who owns The Giving Tree in Devizes. Our sessions have had a huge impact on her business. Her January revenue was up nearly 7% on the previous year alone. Watch the interview, or scroll down for the transcript.
00:00:10 Minal Patel
Hello and welcome to the first Marketing Mix of 2023. Before we get into what we’re gonna talk about today, we’ll talk about mentoring and I’ve got one of my mentees here with me, I’ve got a lot planned for this year and a lot of different types of events, but The Marketing mix will happen every two weeks.
If you want to know what’s going on, head to my website and go to the event page on my website and you will be able to see what events are coming up. Mine as well as some of the ones that I curate that I think are really worth small businesses attending. I update that every week so go and have a look at that.
So today I’ve got with me Sam and Sam owns The Giving Tree in Devizes and you can see her website there on the screen. Sam, tell us a little bit about your business.
00:01:05 Sam Lendergran
Well, we’re in a sleepy market town in dear old Wiltshire and we are a gift shop, and we try very hard to stock product that is not sold by other gift shop owners. This can be quite challenging at the moment we work with local and small businesses as well as some artisan people so we can have one-off items as well. I’ve got a butcher’s block at the moment, and it’s styled on Jamie Oliver’s. And it is a one-off piece.
00:01:46 Minal Patel
Gosh, so that’s it’s definitely worth visiting your shop if you are in Devizes. So we met through the help to grow scheme that you signed up for. When you applied for it, what problem did you want to solve?
00:02:03 Sam Lendergran
The problem I was specifically looking to solve was how to break out selling online, and I’ve dipped my toe in a number of times. I’ve tried different things. Different platforms and eventually took the plunge to actually pay someone to build my website so that I can do all of the content and photograph editing, et cetera myself. And I needed that to grow and I saw an advert for help to grow and I thought, shall I shan’t. I applied, then binned it, and then had a follow-up e-mail saying: We noticed you half applied. But why don’t you apply for the rest of it? And I was persuaded to finish my application.
00:03:09 Minal Patel
What were your expectations of the programme before you started it? What did you think as you did it? Because there are two distinct parts there’s the learning part and then the mentoring part.
00:03:21 Sam Lendergran
There are so expectations. I thought it was going to be. Slightly different from what I got. I thought it was going to be, well, it’s really easy. You need to do this. You need to do that and away you go and then you’d go and do it. And by a miracle, it would all work. But life’s not like that is it? But I had low expectations because I wasn’t 100% sure when I finally did hit the button and got on the course and went ohh really, now what do I do? And so I just went with the flow. I think the first couple of sessions were quite daunting. I thought that perhaps they weren’t aimed at a small business like mine. I thought it was probably geared at those that wanted to go global, and as we actually went on and covered different topics, it was like actually all of this is relevant to a really small business as well.
00:04:31 Minal Patel
Amazing. Oxford Brookes ran the programme and matched us up for the mentoring part. How did you feel about being matched with someone that you didn’t really know anything about, and what were your expectations of working with me?
00:04:59 Sam Lendergran
Ohh Minal, I’m really sorry this is where I feel really guilty now. OK, so I wanted to grow my online business. I knew I’m rubbish at social media because I hate social media and the horrible side of it, but I knew it was a way that you had to use it. You have to embrace it. You have to sort of love it to work for your business. And when I was first told I was being matched with the marketing guru. I was like well that’s not going to help me, is it? It was as simple as that. So, I have to confess before we spoke I was really negative about what you were going to do for me. Negative about meeting you. I’ve met some really interesting marketing people who locally who I just actually bump into and say go away and get a real job. There was just something about you on that first initial call when I was like just tell me a little bit about yourself here and it was like ohh, actually you’re really lovely. I like you and ohh my goodness, yeah, how wrong can you ever be when somebody says to me you need a marketing person? No, I don’t. Ohh yes, I did.
00:06:25 Minal Patel
And that actually is one of the things that I say when you’re looking to work with someone. Whatever aspect of your business you’re looking at to get help with is to actually have a conversation with that person. Even if it’s just 1/2 hour, talk to them because you need to know, especially if you’re working with them one-on-one. You need to know that you get on with them because it’s really important that happens, otherwise, those sessions are going to seem just a little bit tough, and they’re going to be a bit turgid really if you can’t if there’s not a little bit of an of chemistry.
00:07:11 Minal Patel
Outside of what your first thoughts about me were, what were your first thoughts about the mentoring part of the help to grow?
00:07:21 Sam Lendergran
I couldn’t see how it was going to work because it was done digitally as opposed to somebody actually being with you and holding your hand. I couldn’t actually begin to think that it would have any benefit whatsoever. But it did and I’m like it is.
00:07:46 Minal Patel
What did you enjoy the most about our sessions? Because we have come to the end of our sessions.
00:07:55 Sam Lendergran
I know I’m heartbroken still, but the bit I gained the most from is the fact that I’d had these rambling ideas and thought processes and you just were able to extract every single little bit out of my head. And turn it into some form of sense, which my husband will tell you that’s a miracle in itself. And the fact that you were able to give me pointers and say: Well, if you try that, in my experience, it’s not really necessarily worked, but have you thought about doing it this way? And it was just that general conversation. And no, really, it’s been like talking to yourself on Dragons Den where they go and talk to the wall, isn’t it? And you’ve got one person having a conversation with the wall for goodness sake! But you don’t really realise that’s what happened. That’s what’s happening to you when you’re in the mentoring setting. And probably the most valuable part of the help to grow process is the mentoring.
00:09:07 Minal Patel
OK, that’s interesting. So, I’m guessing you had someone teaching you the modules. I haven’t been through the whole programme, but. But why do you think the mentoring was the most valuable part?
00:09:21 Sam Lendergran
The group sessions were all done digitally. You had the lecturer go through all of the theories and guide you in what you can and can’t do or what you should or shouldn’t do. And then you’d have these scenarios where you’d probably go off and you go into these breakout room types. So, there’d be a smaller group of you. And you discuss, and that’s quite difficult. I think if it was done around the table, it would probably be a lot more channelled, but because it was all digital, there were bits of it where you had deviations and clearly people just desperately wanted to talk about their own businesses. They wanted to apply that scenario to their own business and use it that way. Which is fine, but it makes it difficult. The mentoring one-to-one is much more personable and you’re able then to take those sessions provided by the college and discuss them with your mentor to put into practice with your business.
00:10:47 Minal Patel
Did it worry you that the mentoring would be online? Did you think: Ohh, I’d need to have someone that’s near me?
00:10:51 Sam Lendergran
Yeah, yeah, I did think how could anybody show me how to use social media online? I admit I am a technological nightmare, I hate it. I often throw my PC out the window or my mouse because I can’t get it to engage so I didn’t know that you could do things like share a screen and you could show me.
00:11:29 Minal Patel
We have had good sessions. I feel like we’ve made quite a lot of headway, so.
00:11:33 Sam Lendergran
00:11:37 Minal Patel
What do you think mentoring has achieved for your business? Having done those 10 hours’ worth of mentoring.
00:11:47 Sam Lendergran
It was worth it. I think, the most one of the most valuable things that have come out is it’s given me the confidence to know that it doesn’t matter if I get it wrong, it doesn’t matter if something goes out with a spelling mistake, it does not have to be perfect, because at the end of the day it’s not a computer writing your newsletter or your social media post, it’s you the person.
00:12:18 Minal Patel
Ohh, Sam’s disappeared from the stream. I think she might have had a bit of something going on with her Internet connection so I will just wait for her to come back on. Hopefully, she can get back into the session. So, Sam and I actually worked together as I said, over 10 weeks as part of the help to grow programme, which is I think it’s run all over the place. And we had 10 hours of mentoring together, so she’s just back in. Let me add her back in. I think you might have had a blip with your Internet.
00:13:29 Minal Patel
How do you feel that getting that confidence was helped by our talking? In fact, we talked yesterday but we talked about the last few months and how the shop has done and the results you’ve achieved and I think your confidence is tied into the results that you’ve had over the last few months.
00:13:49 Sam Lendergran
00:13:51 Minal Patel
Do you want to tell everyone?
00:13:57 Sam Lendergran
My Christmas trading period was up on turnover, which I was delighted with, fully aware in the media that it was put out because prices had gone up. I coincidentally managed to buy most of my Christmas stock pre price is going up anyway, but I actually did an analysis of items sold. Between this year and last year’s Christmas period, and I claim that to be October, November, December and over that period the number of items sold out of the shop this year was up on last year. And to me, it was massively important to get that definition between turnover and what was being published by High Street stores saying that turnover was high because costs have gone up. I can categorically say my turnover was up because I sold more items. So really pleased and it has continued. Yes, my January, I had a stonking January. I am absolutely blown away and just under a 7% increase from last year. And that was with the January sale.
00:15:27 Minal Patel
And I mean, who doesn’t have a bargain, right? And January is typically the time that traditional time that we expect sales to come on, but good for you for taking it on. And we talked about a lot of ways to sort of keep the momentum going with the sale, and I know you did a couple of different things, including make me an offer.
00:15:49 Sam Lendergran
We did, we did. We had three days of make me an offer and what was interesting is that nobody came in and made an offer. Make me a sensible offer. I’ll drop some more money off, but I just don’t want to count it in my stock take yeah.
00:16:13 Minal Patel
I would say the consistency and the persistence that has paid off, but the fact that you felt confident enough to go and try these things, and sometimes if you don’t try them, you’ll never know that you’re going to succeed. Half the battle is just getting on and doing something and seeing what works and doing more of the stuff that works and less or none of the stuff that didn’t work.
00:16:44 Minal Patel
In terms of our sessions. What do you think? Do you think the balance of what we discussed was right for your business? Because quite a lot of the time I feel like I pushed you to answer questions yourself.
00:17:02 Sam Lendergran
No, because you cannot run my business for me. I have got to do it myself. So, to me, you did absolutely the right thing in pushing me to answer my own questions. And giving me a list of things to follow up on as well. Yeah, in preparation for the next session. So yeah, I came off of our lessons absolutely oozing with enthusiasm and right let’s get this done, bang. Because I had that structure and because I was in essence answerable to somebody. As a small business owner who are you answerable to? Well, we’re actually only answerable to ourselves, aren’t we? And we can let ourselves down, but we don’t worry about letting ourselves down.
00:17:54 Minal Patel
You said to me yesterday because you talk about letting yourself down, but you said that because you went through this programme you had a feeling of responsibility to the taxpayer, so can you explain a bit more about that?
00:18:13 Sam Lendergran
Yeah, basically the taxpayer funded my place and my 10 hours of mentoring for me to grow my business. So, for me personally, I have a duty to those people out there who pay their taxes. To make it work and to give it my absolute all.
00:18:35 Minal Patel
I think that’s a really commendable thing to think about and to really make that commitment. But at the same time, I feel like if you had invested that money yourself, you would have seen it as an investment in yourself and you probably would have made the same effort, and I think you have to look at it that way. That it’s an investment, and with mentoring you as I’ve said to you before you, you only get out what you put in. So I can show you the path, but I can’t make you walk down it. You have to decide to walk down that path yourself, so.
00:19:12 Minal Patel
Where do you think you’d be now if you hadn’t had the mentoring sessions?
00:19:20 Sam Lendergran
Ohh, I’d probably be as just as disorganised, fretting more, less confident, wondering why on earth I am working so hard to employ people and my business comes with two flats that I’m responsible for. So that means by default I have two tenants. So I would spend all my whole time fretting about my tenants losing their homes and my staff losing their jobs.
00:19:54 Minal Patel
So that’s a big motivator for you, it’s keeping your team on. And I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but we haven’t got very far in our sessions and Sam fell ill. And quite seriously ill but still managed to do everything that I set her because she had this determination to make things work.
And when you work that hard and you do the things that you know are right for your business, then you end up doing things like you know, being nearly 7% up on sales in January. You end up having a better Christmas period than you did the year before. You end up, in the first five trading days of February, being 50% of your target for February.
Yeah, so you know it helps to really take mentoring seriously. It is not going to solve your problems unless you go and do the things that you need to do afterwards to help your business and that is a big responsibility on your part. The mentor’s responsibility is a little bit to keep you honest and a lot to just kind of prod and poke and just say, well, what if you did this? And what if you did that? And well, if you didn’t do that, what would happen so? It’s a lot of a two-way street, but a lot of responsibility on your part to for it to work.
00:21:29 Minal Patel
So did our sessions meet your expectations?
00:21:34 Sam Lendergran
Ohh way beyond way beyond. I can’t put it into words. How amazing every single session was. In every single conversation, I learned something and your job also as a mentor is to challenge me to think. Am I doing the wrong right thing? Ask those difficult questions that possibly nobody else will.
00:22:05 Minal Patel
So we could say it was a success. It’s difficult trying to process everything for your business yourself and like take it on yourself. And even though it’s yours and you feel really protective over it. It helps when you have someone else look and then help you understand stuff, I actually text-messaged my mentor today. Hello, are you available for a session? I really need to talk. I’m not just saying it’s good for you to have a mentor. It’s me walking the walk because I know he challenges me. He gets me to think in a different way and he challenges my perceptions of what I’m doing. And sometimes we’re not good at doing that for ourselves.
So you really do need an outside person to do that for you, and I think it’s Enterprise Nation that said that businesses that have mentors have more longevity, They go beyond five years in business than businesses that don’t, so it really is worth looking into that and seeing what you do need and how you can get that for your business.
So we are coming to the end of this session. The lovely Sam has a website that you can see on the screen. There it’s www.givingtreedevizes.co.uk So do go and visit her website and buy some nice things because there are some nice things on it.
If you would like to talk to me about mentoring, you can book 30 minutes with me and we can have a chat about what you need and whether I can help you with that goal so you can book that with me.
You can either do that through the link that I’ve just posted, or you can do it through my website.
And I know times are tough at the minute and we’ve not got a lot of money. And know a lot of businesses are struggling and if mentoring isn’t within your budget, please do sign up for my newsletter. It’s The Marketing Morsel and comes out every Tuesday. So, today’s went out at lunchtime.
You get a short e-mail every Tuesday and more than that you can access a private Facebook group. This month we’re talking about getting better results from your marketing and the content that’s going to go in that group isn’t going to be available anywhere else.
I’ve planned 4 webinars this year for that group only and there’s lots of other great stuff. So go and sign up and that’s all free.
I want to help you in the best way that I can, if all you can afford right now is free, join The Marketing Morsel. If you want to spend some money, invest some money in mentoring, book 30 minutes and we can work out how we can work together.
Thank you so much for joining me today. Sam and good luck with the online sales – go visit Sam’s website and buy something. I will see you in two weeks’ time. Take care bye.