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We chose stories over advice to get the most out of our business mentors

Business mentor stories
Hearing how others had been there and conquered similar problems was a big help to Rob O’Donovan

The problem

The team behind HR firm CharlieHR recognised it would need outside help to continue growing the business. Both founders specialise in marketing and encountered challenges when they started addressing technical issues and scoping out future plans. In particular, they needed direction when it came to hiring for tech roles, scaling their engineering team and building a strategy.

The solution

The first step for co-founder Rob O’Donovan was to acknowledge that business leaders couldn’t be expected to know everything – that they would need to be active in finding help.

The firm found business mentors in the industry, many of whom were referrals through client contacts. The mentors brought the benefit of experience and helped CharlieHR identify specific weaknesses and challenges it was likely to come up against.

But mentors could also be “too far out of the game”, often running businesses with a thousand employees and forgetting how quickly things move for younger businesses. O’Donovan knew they would need to seek help elsewhere for challenges that are specific to SMEs.

O’Donovan worked to build up a group of peers who were also running similar-sized companies. He held dinners and encouraged people to invite other leaders they respected or were inspired by. It created a carefully curated group of people who were facing the same challenges.

To avoid “paralysis” from having lots of conflicting opinions, O’Donovan asked people to share stories or examples of a time when they experienced a challenge rather than asking for direct advice. It helped him to understand the context of the situation and why they might be biased as well as whether the solution would be a good fit for CharlieHR.

The results

CharlieHR has grown to 30 staff members in less than four years. According to O’Donovan, external advice and mentorship have had an “enormous impact” on the development of the business. “We wouldn’t have got anywhere near where we are today without external help,” he said.

“It’s much more powerful to start sharing difficulties and challenges you’re facing,” O’Donovan said. “No one has it all sorted, no matter who they are or what stage of the business they’re at. It’s easier to solve a problem when you start talking about what’s going on.”

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