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Real Business Story: Puntis Associates and Acorn Laser

Jen Robson for <a href='http://www.nelep.co.uk' target='_blank'>North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP)</a>

Created by Jen Robson for North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), 7th June 2018

3 MINUTE READ


Graham Puntis is Director at Puntis Associates, an organisation which supports engineering businesses with performance improvements. He was matched with Graeme Deanus, Director of Washington-based Acorn Laser, to work together as mentor and mentee through the North East LEP Growth Through Mentoring programme. We caught up with both Graham/Graeme's to find out how the mentoring relationship benefitted them.

Graham Puntis - Mentor

Tell me about your own business background and story so far.

My experience has really focused on business growth and in my most recent position at SMD, a global supplier of subsea equipment, I was responsible for setting up the after-market services side of the business and growing it from £10 million to £15 million turnover in the last two years. In a previous role, within a turbomachinery manufacturer, I took an $80 million business to $120 million in the space of four years.

What first caught your interest about mentoring?

When I worked at Rolls Royce more than 20 years ago I had a mentor and I still have one today. I’m an ambitious person and I put myself forward for challenging roles and often, in roles like that, having a second opinion and a safe place to go for advice is essential. My mentors have always had complementary experience to my own and have been able to give me an objective viewpoint on problems I’ve come up against and decisions I’ve had to make throughout my career, so I know how valuable it can be.

What do you personally gain from being a mentor?

I really enjoy it. I’ve been running businesses for 20 years now and I want to be able to give other people the benefit of that experience. I enjoy talking to people and it also gives me another string to my bow by adding different perspectives. If I see that I’ve helped someone solve a really difficult problem it’s a really enjoyable and satisfying experience for me. I’d encourage anyone with a good amount of experience to look into being a mentor. It’s really grounding and you never know what you might learn.

How do you think mentoring can help a business to grow?

It can help you to reframe problems and spot opportunities you might not otherwise have taken. Sometimes you can be so close to a problem and so immersed in your business that you can’t see the solution so this is a way of getting advice and perspective from someone who can help you to move towards a solution. It gives an opportunity to test business ideas in a safe environment and allows you to take on challenges you might have otherwise missed out on.

How would you describe the mentor-mentee relationship in three words?

Trusting, complementary and challenging.

Are there any characteristics or skills that you think a good mentor has?

You’ve got to be able to really listen – not just hear the words but really listen and understand. You need to be able to ask questions in a way that gets to the root of a problem in a challenging but sensitive way, as your mentee should never feel threatened or judged.

Why do you think the match between you and Graeme works?

I’ve been able to talk through similar experiences I’ve had to those that Graeme is going through now and we’ve found parallels. He’s got to be able to trust me to tell him the truth and he feels that he can be open with me.

 

Graeme Deanus – Mentee

Tell me about your own business background and story so far.

I started Acorn Laser about 18 years ago and we began as a laser-cutting business before expanding into metalwork, assembly, and supply of components to a wide range of industries. We’re an SME and there’s a massive amount of variety in my role as Director as I’m involved in everything from sales to operation management.

Why did you decide to work with a mentor?

Often in business your boundaries can be quite local – you don’t have a wide horizon. A good mentor can see the bigger picture as well as being able to understand your specific issues. I’ve always been keen to grow the business and part of that is about internal organisation. In that respect, Graham has been a good match as my mentor as he has a good insight on this issue.

What have been the main benefits to your business of working with a mentor?

It’s given me confidence and reassurance that the changes we’re making are the right ones. Lots of issues in business are very grey – by that I mean that there can be lots of options available which you could take – and it’s helpful to work with someone to narrow those options down and clarify decision-making. It’s helped us as we re-organise as a business. It’s an ongoing process but I have a clear idea of where we’re going.

And what are the main benefits to you personally?

I have more confidence in my plan and vision of what I’m trying to do. It’s given me more clarity in both my medium and long-term planning.

How do you think mentoring can benefit a business that wants to grow?

It’s a tremendous help for any business. A mentor can help give a wider, helicopter view. It sounds simple but when you’re running a business there are so many issues to deal with daily it can become difficult to focus on long term objectives. Talking things over helps clarify your vision and that’s been a big help to me.

How would you describe the mentor-mentee relationship in three words?

Trust and understanding. It’s all about being on the same wavelength and working with someone you can trust.

Why do you think the match between you and Graham works?

He’s someone I find very easy to respect, he’s got the knowledge and the experience, and he’s a good listener. It really does feel genuinely beneficial.

Ready to try mentoring? Visit our mentoring toolkit to access more information


Jen Robson for <a href='http://www.nelep.co.uk' target='_blank'>North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP)</a>

Created by Jen Robson for North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), 1 month ago, [last edited 1 week ago]


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