This advice has been drawn from the experiences of a number of BAs from a variety of business backgrounds.

These tips are intended as helpful guidance, and not a strict set of rules. You will need to adapt your approach to mentoring depending on the specific needs of you students you are working with. 

Some teams may require a lot of help and structure at the start, but then just need light steering thereafter. Some may struggle most with basic teamwork or meeting effectiveness and so require more focused help in these areas.

We ask that all Business Advisers watch the videos on facilitating experiential learning so that you can help the young people taking part get the most out of this learning opportunity.

> Encouraging the right environment and behaviours

An effective Business Adviser:

  • Creates an open and non-judgemental communication exchange
  • Encourages a level of structure and formality (e.g. to communications, agendas and action lists) appropriate to the team – enough for them to see the benefits without being onerous
  • Encourages appropriate communication behaviours (e.g. one person talking at a time) while maintaining levels of interest and energy
  • Creates a proper meeting environment (e.g. by moving furniture into a boardroom format) if you are meeting in a classroom. An unfamiliar, perhaps more formal, environment can change the students’ mindset and encourage new behaviours.
  • Mentors key team members e.g. to give them the confidence and skills to carry out their roles. Helps the MD allocate responsibilities to the right people, even new roles. The more effective the MD becomes, the more the BA can focus on business content and issues rather than mere management process
  • Works with the team within the roles they have agreed amongst them – e.g. helps the Finance Director to take ownership of the student company finances or the Sales Director to organise sales events and prepare the sales teams. Encourages the holder of each role to report to the team the relevant progress and issues in their area of the student company
  • Shares concerns with the CL proactively regarding matters such as student behaviour, meeting effectiveness, student company progress, students who are not contributing, etc

> Facilitating the development of the team

An effective Business Adviser:

  • Steers, guides and encourages the team, but does not direct, lead or take over. BAs might adopt a more facilitative role in the early meetings but should then step back into a more ‘advice and guidance’ role once the student company has achieved a sense of purpose and structure
  • Allows the team to make mistakes, ensuring positive lessons are learned from these. From time to time, the team will learn more from a sub-optimal decision and its consequences than being prevented from making such a decision. However, also bear in mind that students can be used to being told what to do and may need encouraging to make decisions and investigate a variety of options for themselves
  • Helps the team understand the pros and cons of alternative courses of action in order that they can make informed decisions or judgements
    • Offers opinions and suggestions but avoids closing down several alternatives
    • Avoids routinely ‘stepping in’ and correcting the students when they are clearly going awry – instead asks pertinent questions (why, how, etc.) to help the students identify the relevant issues and possible solutions for themselves
    • Recognises that students may not be used to making trade-offs, based on an appreciation of available options, since they are perhaps more used to seeking a definitive ‘right’ answer
  • Avoids lecturing or taking over large chunks of meetings
  • Constructively steers discussions away from spurious detail or trivia and back towards the key issues and decisions. Student companies can become overly-focused on easier tasks (e.g. agreeing a student company name) and away from trickier issues (e.g. agreeing on a core product or overcoming production challenges)
  • Encourages all team members to make an adequate contribution to the student company – it is easy for a minority of the team to dominate meetings and/or take on too much of the work, perhaps marginalising less confident team members.
  • Identifies opportunities to suggest where the team might break into smaller groups in order to make better progress, help remove bottlenecks, share out responsibility more evenly, improve overall contribution, etc

> Being a good role model and adopting the right style

An effective Business Adviser:

  • Honours their commitment to attend student company meetings and respond to regular student company communications. On occasions where circumstances prevent attendance, provide adequate notice to the Centre Lead
  • Is aware of their impact on the students and their likely status as a role model for them
  • For instance, something as simple as taking an action in a meeting (e.g. to find something out about a particular product) and then ensuring you follow-up on this for the next meeting can set a very important standard for the students. Treating them as adults can make a big difference to the tone of meetings, their commitment levels and the amount achieved
  • In a face to face meeting setting, sits amongst the students, as part of the team, not as a separate or isolated figure
  • Let the students run the meeting process and use positive body language to reinforce good discussions and well-made suggestions. Try to encourage as many team members as possible to participate
  • Commands the respect of the students by being engaging, friendly and approachable. Shows genuine enthusiasm for their student company and maintain a sufficient level of interest throughout the Programme, helping to motivate the students if their interest drops occasionally. Learns and uses the students’ first names (and their own) to help establish rapport
  • Fosters a good working relationship with the CL, working collaboratively while retaining a discrete role/purpose in the eyes of the students. Understands and respects the role and status of the CL within the school/college, particularly their authority and expertise in the classroom

> Communicating effectively

Communicating Effectively with the ‘Social Media Generation’

Modern technology enables today’s students to communicate and interact in ways which were not possible just a few years ago. Smartphone apps, social media, chat groups, etc. facilitate a level of immediacy, brevity and informality that are ‘normal’ to our students but might be less familiar to some advisers.

We recommend that advisers try to understand and embrace these capabilities rather than rail against them, but work with the students and Centre Lead (CL) to set some protocols that enable them to work together effectively

For example:

  • Make the effort to understand better the technology the students are using so that you can make your advice relevant to them and/or get more benefits from it. For example, all too often, students will search the internet for a potential supplier without thinking about whether the supplier is local to them, whether they have existing friends/family connections or whether they may need to pay high delivery costs or even import duties. The immediacy and convenience of the internet can cause them to overlook important commercial considerations
  • If the students naturally use chat groups or social media to communicate between meetings, recognise that this is happening, try to influence the effectiveness of the communication, but do not become part of it directly. (Please refer to the Volunteer Code of Conduct) Instead, perhaps get them to nominate a team member (or the MD) who will keep you informed of any major decisions or issues copying in the Centre Lead. Encourage their use of social media to promote their student company but get them to focus on the benefits – e.g. not just how many ‘likes’ their page has received but how many incremental sales it has helped to generate
  • Reinforce the importance of them working as a team and making decisions as a team – a short text message between two team members that approves a ‘decision’ without consulting others may not be an appropriate way of working
  • Set expectations regarding the use of phones or other technology during meetings. A quick internet search to answer a particular question might make a meeting more productive but several people trawling several sites at the same time might derail the meeting. Perhaps create a distinction in expectations between a formal Board meeting and a ‘working’ meeting, for example. In a more formal meeting, devices should be switched off and actions noted to undertake research via the internet after the meeting
  • When working with students ensure that the YE Volunteer Code of Conduct is followed which includes guidance on contacting, communicating and meeting with students, in particular, Volunteers:
    • Will not make arrangements to contact, communicate or meet with students outside the normal activities of the education system or away from the communication platform unless it is within the context of an approved Young Enterprise activity (e.g. Skills Training Workshops etc) that has been agreed and approved by the Centre Lead/Lecturer in advance 
    • Will not share any personal information with a young person. Will not request, or respond to, any personal information from a young person, other than that which might be appropriate as part of their role with Young Enterprise
    • Will not send personal notes/letters/emails/texts to individual students. If it is necessary to contact an individual ensure the Centre Lead or another Young Enterprise colleague has a copy. Do not give out personal contact details and always use the communication platform or a professional email address and mobile when contacting students as these services can be monitored. All communications need to be transparent and open to scrutiny
      Download the YE Volunteer Code of Conduct

> Imparting useful knowledge

An effective Business Adviser:

  • Uses examples from your own business experiences – or from current business practice – to illustrate issues and how these might be tackled
  • Real-life examples of how other well-known businesses handle customer service or order fulfilment, for example, can help enhance students’ understanding of their own student company challenges
  • Explains business concepts (which may be unfamiliar to some students) in a straightforward but realistic fashion.
  • Avoids unnecessary business jargon but also encourage the use of proper business language such as profit margin, sales forecasts and risk mitigation
  • Recognises that effective advisers ‘know what they do not know’ but also are experienced in techniques to find out about new topics and areas, especially in the internet age.Helping students tackle issues can be more about the process of gathering data and weighing up alternatives as being an expert in the content of particular business matters or knowing the ‘right answer’
  • Draws on knowledge and expertise in their own personal networks where appropriate

Please note: You will need a basic working knowledge of company finances (accounting for sales and purchases, profit and loss accounts, etc.) Maintaining the student company accounts is an area where the students frequently seek help. A familiarity with the workings of the accounting facility on YE Online is required.

> Providing feedback and motivation

An effective Business Adviser:

  • Gives positive feedback and congratulates students for important progress or achievements
  • Feels able to recognise and praise specific individuals who have made a strong contribution
  • Values all responses and suggestions and compliments the best ones. Gives negative feedback in a clear and constructive way, helping the students understand why they disagree with a particular suggestion or favour an alternative course of action
  • Encourages the students to reflect on their achievements and setbacks to reinforce their experiential learning
  • Recognises points in the student company lifecycle when the students may need some extra motivation – e.g. when failing to agree on a product for the nth meeting in a row, after a disappointing sales event or when they arrive back at school after the Christmas holiday