Ann, can you please tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally.
I have a background in adult learning, career development and mentoring. I’ve studied behavioural science and I’m an accredited Gallup Strengths Coach. I deliver as an international conference speaker, trainer, webinar and workshop leader, consultant and author.
I live at Umina Beach, on the east coast of Australia, a little north of Sydney (and online!) Some people call my place “the tree house” because it is high up and surrounded by bush. Beautiful birds, the occasional wallaby and water-dragon (lizard) visit my garden.
Imagine that you met someone in an elevator and was asked to explain Mentoring Works in 30 seconds or less… Can you give us a 2 sentence ‘elevator pitch’ about your business and what you do?
I help organisations set up mentoring programs. I train mentors and people who are mentored and provide a range of resources to support mentoring relationships and professional development.
How did you get started in this business?
I took maternity leave 30 years ago and gave birth to my third daughter. I decided I did not want to return to full-time work so I started my own consulting business and worked from home. My first clients came as a result of volunteer work I had done on the council of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD).
Can you describe your customers / what type of customers does Mentoring Works have?
I work with government agencies, such as Justice, in their Aboriginal mentoring program, cross agency organisations such as the Public Service Commission on graduate mentoring and small local businesses, developing team strengths.
Essentially, my customers value and want to develop their people. Everything in my 30 year’s experience convinces me that every one of us has more talent than we know. My work is about enabling individuals and organisations discover hidden talent and utilize untapped potential.
What are some of your “keys to success” in building your customer base?
I have deliberately kept my business small. I have always had my well-equipped, comfortable office in my home. This reduces wasting time commuting and increases my effectiveness and flexibility in a 24/7 world. Use of online technology is a major part of that. I have a virtual assistant, outsource basic administrative tasks like bookkeeping and accounting, but do my own marketing to stay close to my customer-base.
Most clients come from repeat business and referral – my customers value what I do and how I do it and therefor recommend me to others.
I produce a newsletter and use social media – the Mentoring Works Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn to stay in touch and share articles and practical information people can use.
Is there anything about your business that you feel makes it special?
I provide many complimentary resources – live and recorded webinars, videos, ebooks and articles. That means new clients can “try before they buy”, low or no-budget organisations can access information for free and I continue to add value to existing customers and followers on social media.
What kind of technology advances do you see that will likely affect this sector over the coming few years?
We are dealing with “generation C” for “connected” – people who, regardless of age, are use technology to meet a range of needs. Online learning will continue to develop. It will become more human and less machine-like. People want information at their fingertips, when and where they need it. Smart phones and wearable devices will be preferred. There will be more informal learning and the use of personal and online networks for sharing. Talking to others makes information and experience meaningful. Face-to-face mentoring will continue to be highly valued, but more and more virtual mentoring, both one-to-one and group will take place online. We will reach out and build relationships across the globe.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? In the next ten years?
More and more of my services will be delivered online and available globally. In the short-term, I am expanding my business and reducing my personal workload. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I want to leave a legacy. So in the longer-term, it is important to be able to hand on the baton and I am building a business model to do that.