Get your business focus on track with a Mentor

Get your business focus on track with a Mentor


Mike is a facilitator & producer for InkBlot Films who work with agencies, marketing teams, project leaders and business owners to create impactful content that inspires positive change. He specialises in video, photo and 360 content with a sprinkling of theatre and community arts.

Mike sees positive change when people work together to inspire the world by standing up to their convictions, with the use of creative arts and technology, to connect, inspire and educate.

In this guest blog, Mike talks about how he came to regard coaching and mentoring as the most valuable investment in himself and his business along with discovering that the two are wholly intertwined.

It’s one thing coming up with a business idea and implementing it. It’s another thing realising you might not have the energy, resources or ability to deliver everything yourself.

In a world of endless voices, opinions, theories and advice, it’s hard to know the best way to test ways of improving your business. I started in a place that seemed obvious: books, blogs and informal education.

I haven’t studied business at an academic level and I didn’t know how the experiences of a few business owners and self-employed folk in my life related to me. So I didn’t ask many questions about their experiences.

So where and how do I improve?

After exploring blogs, workshops and speaking to people, I decided to take my development into my own hands and do something I’d never considered before. I accidentally stumbled onto Creative Pods, a 6 month fully funded coaching programme.

“I experienced my first taste of being guided along a path using the knowledge that it turns out I might have already had, I just wasn’t asking the right questions.”

It was 2010, I was 25, full of energy and ended up attending the sessions with my long friend and business partner at the time, Dom Smith.

Under the guidance of Christina Griffiths of CGA Management, we travelled to Scarborough every 4 weeks for 6 months and were coached through the wonders of what I would describe as a ‘guided mastermind’ group. Here creative business owners work together, through a series of personal introspective and business questions, along with sharing current issues facing their organisations.

Our group included a photographer, a graphic designer, a traditional artist, a journalist and myself. It’s certainly one of the most rewarding development experiences of my professional life. At the end of the 6 months, I was empowered, I had insight, I had vision and clarity, but no real way of way of using what I’d learned in the long term.

Over the next few years, my business existed and I kept *slowly* progressing while at the same time feeling acutely aware of how I was losing the clarity which coaching provided me.

Two years on, we accidentally fell into a short development course, this time from York St John and ultimately resulted in taking control of the business again and trying to find something similar to Creative Pods. At this point in my career, I’d just spent two years freelancing at Mind the Gap and had worked in Europe on Youth Media projects, so it’s fair to say I felt pretty invincible.

York St John Business School’s development programme was called the Acorns Programme. We applied and were successful; Huzzah! This should get the ball rolling with the business now my freelance contracts had come to an end. The programme was an extremely positive way to benefit from the high quality teaching and learning spaces in a new-build and provided almost too much expertise for us to manage.

What we learnt set us up to enter a more B2B (business to business) space to take us beyond our foundations of community arts and really helped us think about the right ways to run our business, from tax to managing data. The course was only a week long but really helped bolster my confidence in the business.


Acorns set us on a new path and led us to who would become our next mentor. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what a mentor was, not quite the same as a coach, but we thought we’d give it a go, and we did. J was a fantastic guy; very insightful, very experienced as an ex-lawyer and I really liked him.The problem was that our working relationship was more distant than that of a relationship with a coach on a course with defined meetings over a set period. I couldn’t wrangle my thoughts to a consistent enough point to bridge the gap with J and after a year or so we drifted apart and our business was dissolved with the individual service sectors being split into new businesses, which I’m pleased to say all still exist and trade successfully to this day.

Having not synced with our mentor and adjusted our approach to business, I reflected on the period and made the distinction between coaching and mentoring along with the power of meeting someone regularly in a more structured way.

“For me (this may not be technically accurate), coaching focuses on the individual and mentoring focuses more on the business by building on technical and practical experience.”

This is simply my understanding which has led me to draw the conclusion that I can’t find the right balance without considering both technical experience and professional advice from mentoring and personal development from coaching. If anything, I benefit from personal insight first, which allows me to see the wood for the trees and make better business decisions off the back of my self-confidence.

Our next advisors were at IJMS4BIZ where we met as a much smaller group every month in York. We had a short and absolutely mind-blowing period of focused development with an entirely different calibre of business owners. We were coached in a mastermind group which included a financial manager and an experienced print business. This was invigorating for me. In that year we regained focus, a strong sense of direction and saw the business grow.

This brings us to now: I’ve looked far and wide for our next mentor/coach. I have spoken to an executive coach, a published author and an entrepreneurial coach. I continue to read influential books, I’ve attended a short taster workshop with an entrepreneur-focused coach and I’ve spoken informally to the MD of the hugely successful agency. All these meetings gave me the confidence to apply for funding, some of which I got, and some of which I was unsuccessful in.

Essentially I’m always on the look out, always considering and thinking about the next best steps.

So what’s the take away with all this?

All in all, I’m newly motivated to find a programme or coach for the next few years to take us forwards.

I’d say that regular and personalised coaching and mentoring with scheduled meet ups for 6 – 12 months as a starting point might be the only way for me to feel in in control of my business growth.

I read some fantastic advice which said “Find brilliant advisors and be prepared to pay for their advice.'”

I accept that I can’t be in control of everything, nothing is fixed and business is fluid. So therefore:

-I’m prepared to take control of my destiny by working to meet life-changing people.
-I’m prepared to move on to others when our time naturally comes to an end.
-I’m prepared that the journey will never “end”, but to succeed, it needs to begin.
-I will accept and seek out support that is out there or create opportunities.

For you, if you find opportunities, you should always apply if it’s relevant. If you don’t you’re doing yourself, and your business, a disservice.

If you’re anything like me, you’re likely more capable than you give yourself credit for.

Find a coach who can help you give yourself credit, lift you up and a mentor who can fly with you to new heights.

For all your video needs, get in touch with Mike at Inkblot Films on 07950 389 563 or email


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