With over half a million startups launched and approximately 4.9 million small businesses in operation last year, the UK is an enterprising nation with high-growth ambitions.
However, statistics also show that 50% of startup businesses fail in their first couple of years.
How do we turn this figure around?
One possibility is through targeted business mentoring. Last year, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills found that 90% of businesses who had worked with a mentor said it had a positive impact on their business. It also found that nearly twice as many mentored businesses reported an increase in turnover (44%) than non-mentored counterparts (23%).
Similarly twice as many mentored businesses had hired more staff (10%) than non-mentored businesses (5%).
This research suggests that mentoring can indeed have a profound effect on a company's chances of success, which can in turn lead to improved hiring prospects and generate a significant economical boost.
Mentoring in flexible workspaces
Given its importance for providing a supportive workplace for startups and SMEs, the flexible workspace industry occupies a prime position from which to help support and nurture growing businesses.
As such, flexible workspace operators and BCA Members frequently offer business mentoring as a service. Some, like Bizspace, partner with their own clients to offer professional support to new businesses. Bizspace launched a new service in January which offers new clients at their Preston centre a programme of business guidance and mentoring from long-standing customer NXO, which has been based at Bizspace's centre for 18 years.
Others, like Aberdeen's Mike Watson - operator of The Soap Factory - offer their own experience as a service. He has tailored a virtual office package for new businesses complete with consultancy, advice and introductions to key business contacts, which he delivers himself.
Another flexible workspace operator that recognises the value of mentoring is Wenta. The company is listed on MentorsMe, a directory service to help entrepreneurs connect with mentors within their industry. Wenta's business advisory programme offers various elements such as start-up workshops, training courses, one-to-ones, and use of their own Business Incubation Centres.
UK lacks a support network
Entrepreneur James Caan, who himself formerly invested in the flexible workspace industry, recognises the importance of business mentoring for small and growing firms but believes the support network in the UK is falling well behind its potential.
"I am a passionate believer in the concept of mentoring," he said, writing for Business Matters Magazine. He explained that mentoring should take place within an organisation - supporting staff and future leaders - as well as to up-and-coming new business owners.
"As well as guiding those who work for you, I’m a big believer that entrepreneurs should give back to the business community. I still feel that, certainly here in the UK, there isn’t enough of a support network for entrepreneurs."
Indeed, a survey conducted by Sage in June 2014 found that less than a quarter of small businesses (22%) are currently making use of mentors or mentoring programmes.
"Running a business is one of the toughest yet most rewarding things anybody can do," Caan added.
"By sharing our experiences with both our employees and the wider business community, we can all contribute to a thriving economy that gets more and more entrepreneurial by the day.