The organisation I have been mentoring is the National Literacy Trust (NLT), a UK-registered charity which aims to improve literacy rates among school children across the UK.
Their primary source of income over past few years has been government funding, and due to fiscal budget constraints this has ceased. Their income has dropped considerably, which has had an adverse effect on the bottom line. The charity now needs to be profitable in order to fund ongoing activities; and has set its main target as developing its Teacher Training Conferences into a more profitable enterprise.
There are two main issues: first, the business is used to running as a not-for-profit organisation (NPO) and staff somewhat lack a profit-driven mindset. Second, there are a number of undisclosed changes to the Teacher’s National Curriculum which come into effect in 2014, meaning that the immediate demand for teacher training is deteriorating.
I work with the NLT’s marketing executive, Ann Jones, who has some wonderful ideas about how to steer the organisation forward. I’ve been asked to review the business plan and make suggestions on cost-cutting and market penetration. I meet Ann on a monthly basis, listen to her ideas and act as a third-party sounding board.
Personally, I find the experience extremely rewarding on two levels. First, I feel pride that I’m working with an organisation that operates in a sector I feel passionately about. Second, I am developing myself as a coach, mentor, listener and guide. Listening to ideas and developing a mutually rewarding business relationship is challenging, but it’s a lot of fun too.
Tariq Benson is an employee of Barclays Bank and a business mentor.