"Having a trusted individual(s) as a sounding board to bounce ideas with can lead to focus and clarity"
Ansar Rahman founded Atelier Rahman, a bespoke tailoring business for men, especially for grooms. He signed up to the Next-Up mentoring site in September 2020.
The business had grounded to a complete halt as a result of the pandemic. The business was set up in Farsley, with the physical site refurbished in 2018 alongside the launch of the brochure website. The business was reliant on physical attendance to take measurements of clients - and for the clients to try on catwalk pieces and shape designs for their own outfits. With social distancing restrictions and local and national lockdowns, it became impossible to operate. During the first lockdown there was no shortage of ideas to look at diversifying the product portfolio or enter new markets, however the issue was picking out the best course of action to yield the greatest results.
Ansar realised he needed someone independent to talk to about the ideas swirling in his mind and to help distil the best options for business continuity. He was introduced to the Next-up Mentoring website by the Leeds City Council Business Support team.
Ansar approached three mentors initially and has been in touch with Phil Fraser since October 2020. Phil offered to speak to Ansar fortnightly which, he says, was very generous. At each fortnightly meeting they agreed a set of tasks for completion. As a result of agreeing fortnightly meetings it kept a tight focus on the tasks that needed to be completed so that progress could be reported, analysed, discussed and then establish the next steps.
He explains how Phil helped him, “As a creative, multiple ideas often come into play so frequently that sometimes it’s difficult to isolate those ideas that will yield immediate results from those that may be slow burners. I needed someone to bounce those ideas with and find a sounding board - someone to encourage traction.
“Whilst friends, family and work colleagues will listen and support, there is always a niggling feeling that they may be offering advice to be kind rather than genuine business advice. So my search for a mentor began. Phil’s profile hit all the key words I was searching for. From the very first interaction Phil had a natural ability to enable me to think differently about business problems. He didn’t judge nor challenge but instead asked pertinent questions that allowed thoughts to be processed out loud and helped me to reach focus and to structure the priorities to make the roadblocks disappear.
“More was achieved in a matter of weeks than the many months of wavering. Amazing what can be achieved with the right support and encouragement. All through, Phil’s calm approach helped me identify the priorities and focus on actions to reach specific outcomes.
“I would highly recommend Phil to any business owner who needs an independent critical friend and someone to bounce ideas with to achieve your particular goals.”
Some of the impact is measurable whilst a vast majority has been about staying focussed on the task at hand. The tangible impact was the decisive direction to move towards a casual line of products and a new product was developed as a result of the conversations with Phil. The products were tested with the existing customer base and the first orders for commissioned pieces were taken and orders fulfilled during the last few months. In addition, trading online (ie moving from a brochure site to an e-commerce website) was also a fundamental change in direction for the business and the commissioned site is currently in development, with site testing taking place this month and a launch by early March. The e-commerce site virtual sales platform will operate in parallel with the physical operations of the atelier, meaning new product lines can be offered to online customers, whilst online products can be cross-sold to existing clients. The new website will also allow new product lines to be tested and sold online as the customer base develops and grows. At this stage it is too early to give a tangible figure on the impact the mentoring has had on the overall business revenue, however, Ansar says the trajectory is certainly looking a lot better than 4 months ago!
Ansar absolutely recommends the Next-Up mentoring site to others. “As an entrepreneur it can be challenging to juggle all the different roles and responsibilities, often working very long hours and having very little spare time. However it is vitally important to pause and reflect on what is working and what needs improving. Having a trusted individual(s) as a sounding board to bounce ideas with can lead to focus and clarity and is immensely important to take the time and find a mentor(s) that can support you through what has now become a hugely challenging period but equally an exciting time to enable businesses to transform and shape up.”
“There is a wealth of experience amongst the mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries however I would add that it’s not important to find a mentor from within your sector – engaging with someone from outside the sector in my experience can provide a much better and richer value to your business.”
Everyone at Next-Up is adding our thanks to Phil and our other amazing and generous mentors. In Phil’s case he went the extra mile, interrupting his holiday abroad to continue to have scheduled meetings with Ansar!
If you would like to find a mentor for your business – or become a mentor – it is all free. Just sign up to the Next-Up Mentoring site here .