Entrepreneur says mentor has been ‘life-saver’

17 April 2020 By Victoria Tomlinson

Entrepreneur says mentor has been ‘life-saver’ image

Victoria Speight, co-founder of Leeds-based Laboc Communications, says her mentor has been a life-saver and helped her cope with the impact of COVID-19 on her business.

She registered on the newly launched Next-Up site, supported by Leeds City Council, and approached Tony Webster – a businessman with a number of non-executive director roles – who is one of the 100 mentors already offering to help others coping with the pandemic.

Victoria said, “When the lockdown started, I was completely lost. I normally spend my time on the road and in client meetings, discussing their phone and IT needs. I couldn’t get my head around what had happened.” She says the first thing Tony did was to help her work out a new ‘normal’ and to reassure her that everyone is having to rethink what they do.

Tony Webster, her mentor, explains, “Victoria was worried about keeping a momentum. I challenged her – what does that really mean? She was seriously frustrated that she couldn’t continue as normal – understandably – but that frustration was stopping her working out what to do. It was the key blockage! I showed her the famous Change Curve by Kubler Ross and that her emotions were normal. Once she could accept this, I got her to focus on facts and remove the blockage.”

Victoria adds, “Tony got me to do a cash flow for the next three months and that was really reassuring. Even doing sensitivities based on losing a percentage of clients was still OK. I have now worked out how to create a momentum sitting at my desk, focusing on the current opportunity around remote solutions and next we will focus on options for when doors open again after the virus.

“This is such a brilliant concept – I would encourage all people running a business to go on the site and approach a mentor. It’s all free.”

The mentors registered on the Next-Up site are senior people who have recently retired or have time to spare and is the brainchild of Victoria Tomlinson, chief executive of Next-Up. She said, “We only launched two weeks ago and already have the most amazing bank of people offering to help others for free. We now need more entrepreneurs and people running organisations to use this support – they may have a particular challenge such as fundraising or HR issues or just want someone to talk things through.

“Mentoring relationships are confidential so the mentee can talk about anything in a way they may not be able to do elsewhere.”

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said: “It’s great to hear the response to this initiative has been so positive. Our retired generation, from doctors to business leaders, have so much fantastic knowledge and experience and it’s great that we are encouraging them to share this. Mentors can help people come to terms with this unprecedented crisis and start planning for a new future. A number of entrepreneurs are now signing up which is great, but we hope to see even more leaders from public, private and voluntary sectors take up this opportunity too.”

Mentors offer a weekly 45-minute Zoom call with their mentees – further sessions can be booked if more time is needed.

Go to www.next-up.com for information and to register, either as a mentor or to be mentored. Next-Up also holds weekly online sessions for all mentors to share experiences and help each other.

Next-Up is working with RSM, NorthInvest and Tech Mentors:Yorkshire as part of supporting the tech infrastructure in Leeds and My2be has provided the platform for this mentoring site.

Author Image

Written by Victoria Tomlinson

Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.