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Masters of the (design) Universe – the value of being mentored by an industry pioneer

‘We were in a ‘Groundhog Day’ period.’

It’s a phrase that could easily strike a chord with many a business owner – doing ok, ticking on, but operating on ‘repeat’ rather than ‘revolutionise’ mode. But that Bill Murray moment doesn’t have to last.There is a solution that can help you move your business from ‘good’ to ‘great’, help you punch higher, take firm control of your agency’s future and re-examine your perspective on work, as well as your priorities. The solution can lie in a mentor.

For Andy Gray, MD of StudioLR, having a mentor has been a “transformational” experience. Two years on since Andy was paired with mentor, Andrew Eyles, CEO and Co-Founder of Bluemarlin, the impact has been huge, “Financially we’ve had two of our best years since we started and we’ve doubled in size.” But adds Andy, “it’s the way we all go about our business that has had the most impact.”

Andy sought a mentor through the DBA’s mentoring programme because he needed a fresh perspective from someone who understood the design industry. For Debbie Oatley, Founder of Grace Design Agency, the motivation came from the transition period she was in – moving from freelance publishing designer to full service agency owner – and for Debbie it’s the personal impact that has been most significant. It was a relief for Debbie to find someone who really understood where she was coming from; not only has her confidence significantly grown, she adds that, “I’ve almost completely overcome the psychological barriers that have held me back for so long”.

Heading up a business can be a rollercoaster with little time for critical reflection on what you’re doing. The right mentor will help you ask and answer challenging questions to better understand the opportunities for your business, they will help you tackle the fears that concern you, and to realise the hopes and aspirations you have for your agency. They’ll be someone who can help you explore, in a supportive way, how you can drive your business forward and provide a unique opportunity to find out more about yourself, whilst resoundingly benefiting your business.

Being paired with the right mentor, and following a structured process that hinges on high quality interactions between you and them is key. Connecting the rising leaders in design to the leading lights of the industry has always been fundamental to the Twenty/Twenty mentoring programme and since it was launched by the DBA six years ago, over 100 mentees, including Andy and Debbie, have benefited from this unparalleled opportunity to deep dive into industry experience. The programme specifically matches your needs, experience, personality and role to the right mentor, ensuring you get the very best from the relationship.

Erika Clegg co-founder of Southwold based agency Spring – was a mentee on Twenty/Twenty back in 2011. She was mentored by Jim Prior, CEO of multi-award winning WPP agencies The Partners and Lambie-Nairn. Says Erika, “My own agency Spring was emerging from a brutal recession into a new normal, and to receive guidance from Jim was the equivalent of being taught chess by a Grand Master!” Erika is clear on the long term beneficial impact the programme has had both on Spring’s growth, as well as on herself, and says that the direct interest Jim showed in the business, giving the team the benefit of his experience, has led to them developing a focus around ‘be extraordinary’, which she says “is the lens through which I ask our whole team to view their work” to this day.

It’s a real two-way thing for the mentors too. “It’s been a lot of fun and a valuable experience,” says four-time Twenty/Twenty mentor, and highly respected industry name, Lynne Dobney. For mentees, she says “it makes you think, makes you listen, makes you open to ideas and leads to exploring possibilities, opportunities, solutions.”

Andy’s mentor’s wise words are still ringing in his ears, even two years on and his enthusiasm for the programme is still going strong, “It’s a relatively in-expensive investment to have someone with very relevant experience mentor you. I’m actually signing up again this year”, he says.

And there won’t be a Groundhog in sight.

Twenty/Twenty is the innovative business mentoring programme from the DBA.

The programme pairs rising leaders in design with one of the leading lights of the design industry. Through 1-2-1 meetings, the mentor’s role is to listen, share experience, provide a sounding board for ideas and ultimately help the mentee to define their goals and grow their business. Find out more.

Image credits: © Salestron76 |


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