Good guidance from mentors
THE Noosa Chamber of Commerce's ground-breaking mentoring program stands to expose the large pool of retired entrepreneurial talent that exists on the Sunshine Coast as well as give strategy-seeking businesses the edge.
The mentors volunteer their time, while the participating SMEs pay just $200 for chamber membership, which entitles them to 12 months' worth of meetings and coaching.
"I have a team of highly experienced retired and semi-retired mentors with backgrounds ranging from hotel management, IT companies, retail, banking, a chain of London restaurants, businesses built on the trades to national and international product sales," Voluntary Business Mentoring co-ordinator Anna Day said.
"The feedback I am receiving from those businesses which have taken on a mentor is overwhelmingly positive.
"The mentors are brilliant, and practical."
Semi-retired chairman and CEO Grahame Milton is working with new Mudjimba business Pacific Mowers.
Mr Milton, who lives on an Eerwah Vale cattle farm, has some three decades' experience running large and small businesses. He worked for BHP for 23 years and has a varied background in manufacturing, plastics, steel and paper. He also owns Alltone Blinds, a Kunda Park window furnishings manufacturer.
"I am able to quickly assess the financials, capacity and viability of a business," the 65-year-old said.
"I have done it so many times before. I had been looking for some time to find ways to give something back to society and I just love helping people in this context in business.
"I have old friends asking me why I don't go fishing or play golf. But this is my hobby, I love being involved."
Mr Milton said he would limit the number of mentees he took on to two.
"A mentor is not there to tell them how to run their business or do things for them, they have to do it.
"My job is to push them in the right direction, in some cases teach them things and help them understand the issues.
"They have to be prepared to listen, be objective and hear things they might not want to hear.
"They have to have asked themselves if they can accept criticism, accept someone else telling them things aren't quite right or if they are willing to go and learn some new things.
"I know that it gets very lonely if you own or run a business - who do you talk to? That's the other role a mentor could fill," Mr Milton said.
Kevin Kerr opened Pacific Mowers on Runway Dr six months ago.
He had been a self-employed earthmoving contractor for 30 years but saw a gap in the market for a lawnmower sales, service and repair business that also sells products from world-renowned brands Stihl, Masport and Yamaha.
"I am new in the industry and it's good to get advice from other people who have been in business for a lot longer than I have, and those who have diversified in a lot of businesses," he said.
"They don't tell you what to do, but they can advise and work with you towards the goals you have set. It's been fantastic.
"These people come and help you for nothing. Grahame said business had been kind to him and he'd like to give something back.
"It's a nice surprise to find people like that out there, someone to bounce ideas off."
The pair has met three times so far, usually once a month.
"He knows the goals that I've got for the business and I'm hoping through this program that I can achieve those goals a bit quicker," Mr Kerr said.
►MENTOR IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY
Mentor was enlisted by Odysseus to look after his son Telemachus while Odysseus fought in the Trojan War.
Athena disguised herself as Mentor and encouraged Telemachus to stand up to his mother and discover what happened to his father.
Mentor has since been adopted as a term meaning "someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague".