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“A good mentor lets you make your own decision, but they’re there as a sounding board.”

Posted: Wednesday 3 June 2020

The Digital Jersey Mentor Programme matches up people across our tech community, giving those at the start of a business journey the opportunity to tap into the expertise and experience of those who’ve already been there and done it.

We spoke to mentor Aaron Chatterley, the co-founder and deputy chairman of online retailer FeelUnique, and his mentee Gary Stewart, the co-founder and CEO of Nexus Technology, to find out why they got involved with our Mentor Programme, and how it’s working for them.

Aaron: Why did I get involved? Quite simply because I’ve been through it myself and seen the benefit of having mentors throughout my own business career. I’ve built a business and, in that process from conception to where I am today, I’ve relied on lots of different people, at different times in the evolution of my business. I’ve needed to call on people with different skills so I know, first hand, just how important it is to speak to people externally. It can be hard getting honest feedback, internally, when you are at MD or CEO level as there’s always a degree of people wanting to tell you what they think you want to hear. Having that external view can be much more objective. It may not always be right, but it’s always a different perspective.

I remember the excitement of the early days of starting a business. For me, now, it’s exciting to be having those conversations as a mentor, but then stepping away to allow the mentee to make their own decisions.

It sounds trite, but it’s about giving something back and that, in itself, is very rewarding. If I can help in some small way, then that’s a good thing.

Gary: Aaron is a well-known figure, locally, who set up a new business in tech space. I’ve had different mentors over the years, but setting up my own business means I wanted to find a mentor who’d been there and done it, was able to offer sage advice and, crucially, wasn’t just going to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear.

I saw Aaron give a talk on the FeelUnique story at a leadership event and found his style incredibly engaging. I spoke to Digital Jersey about the Mentor Scheme and specifically asked about being paired up with Aaron as I liked his story.

We met down the beach for our first meeting and spoke about business, about surfing, about life in general, as it’s important to get to know each other upfront. The skills Aaron has got, that I really like, are around him building a business from scratch. He didn’t just come in as CEO, he’s been there through good times and bad. He also has an agency and marketing background, and a wealth of business development experience.

A good mentor lets you make your own decision, but they’re there as a sounding board. He’s listening he’s observing, he’s adding his own thoughts, but I’m the one making the decisions. That’s a really important point to remember.

Aaron: You’ve got nothing to lose by becoming a mentor, but you do need to ensure it’s a good match. Some people may be looking for validation, rather than expertise and advice, so you need to make sure your mentee is doing it for the right reasons. You need to be clear on the ground rules upfront, but I really do believe there also has to be a human connection. Do your homework, arrange a meet and greet first, and see whether you’re right for each other.

Gary: The personal connection is key. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of the process so I went in with an open mind. If I was just after Aaron making the decisions for me, that would be wrong. That’s not what a mentor is for. Ask yourself what you want from it. Is it just validation or making decisions for you? If so, it may not be for you. But if you’re happy to bounce ideas around, to tap into their expertise, rather than expecting them to tell you what to do, then just do it.

To find out more about the Digital Jersey Mentor Programme and to request a mentor see here

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