John Tasker is the Strategy Director of Massive; an events agency that specialises in helping brands and charities to attract, engage and inspire people through mass participation. Last Autumn, John was matched up with a mentor, Anastasia Georgiou, a Manager with Lloyds Banking Group. In a only six months, Massive has sky-rocketed to a point where it can ‘go it alone’, and this month we chatted to John and Anastasia about their mentoring whirlwind and how that final push can steer you to success.
Massive had already been going for three years before John’s mentoring relationship with Anastasia began. The business was doing well, but John decided it was time to step it up and make the transition from ‘getting by’ to soaring successful company. John says:
“Last year I was put in touch with Paul Harper, the IOEE’s Mentoring Manager, who introduced me to Anastasia. The mentoring relationship began at just the right time for the company – we were doing alright and were growing quite quickly, but we needed help with how much was changing, and had to put things in place to make sure we didn’t rush and did everything right.”
Massive works with global brands and charities, with some impressive clients under its belt already, including brands like Nike, Adidas and Aldi, and charities like the British Heart Foundation and the NSPCC. John explains how mass participation events can have such an impact on an organisation:
“Great mass participation fundraising events come in various different shapes and sizes, from the physical events, such as The Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk, community-focused campaigns, such as Macmillan Cancer Support’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, virtual events like The British Heart Foundation’s MyMarathon, or social campaigns like Movember.
“It is often the simplest campaigns, the ones that can be integrated into everyday life, with cause, motivation, and community spirit at their heart that achieve the most success. These are the events that bring people together, that create conversations and a sense of camaraderie; a shared moment or experience that gives people a sense of belonging to a tribe, and the feeling of being part something much bigger.
“In addition to generating income, these events can also be incredibly beneficial for building your brand too, by growing advocates for your cause who will subsequently recommend and talk about you and the value of what you are doing, which will in turn help you to achieve a level of cut-through that no amount of advertising can buy.”
Since Anastasia began mentoring John last year, Massive has doubled in size, and with business thriving John is already looking at hiring a further two more employees as a result of this growth. John says:
“When you set up a business there’s usually just a couple of you, and you’re basically doing everything yourselves. But when you start to grow and expand is often the time you realise that you actually need extra support, and that’s why it was great timing to have a mentor. We needed to evolve into a fully-fledged business with systems and processes and policies and HR - and all the rest of the stuff that comes with running a company. We felt quite out of our depth, but Anastasia gave us the push that we needed and steered us in the right direction, and in the last sixth months the business has gone from strength to strength.”
John found that another benefit of mentoring was learning how to step back and look at the business from the outside, and that Anastasia encouraged him to look at it more objectively. John says:
“It can be really difficult to see things clearly when you’re actually in the business, but having a mentor gives you that outside perspective. However, Anastasia also got me to take out time away from the business to think about the business myself, and creating that time and distance is really helpful – it feels challenging when you want to be in the thick of it doing everything, but it’s so important to give yourself that time to stop and assess where you’re at and where you want to go next. I’d recommend anyone to get a mentor – if you’re matched up with the right person and you understand each other and the business’ goals, a mentor can really help you to take your business to where it needs to go.”
Anastasia has had several mentees through the IOEE’s mentoring programme, helping individuals and companies with a broad range of elements involved in getting a business off the ground. However, Anastasia says that with John it really came down to one element - and that was having the support there in place to give him the reassurance and confidence to take the leap into the next phase of the business. Anastasia says:
“Often you’ll start working with a mentee and they’re in the really early stages of setting up a business and you’ll have to start right at the beginning - which is absolutely fine, sometimes that’s exactly what people need. But what was great about working with John and Massive is that John already had a really clear strategy - he and his business partner knew exactly what they wanted and needed to do, it was more a case of ‘should we?’, and ‘where on earth do we start?’! They were fearful of doing all of this work and then falling flat on their faces, and just needed the support behind them to validate throwing themselves into making their business a success.”
Introduced by the IOEE’s Mentoring Manager, Paul Harper, Anastasia and John chatted on the phone before meeting face-to-face. The mentoring was relaxed, with the two getting together to discuss ideas and set objectives and make plans over coffee, but Anastasia knew immediately what they needed to do:
“They were holding back, afraid of putting themselves out there. John said, ‘we don’t go out and market, we let the business come to us’, and I knew they just needed that push. And as soon as they started pushing themselves they started to see the benefits straight away. They’ve grown significantly over the last six months – so much so that they don’t need me any more! A lot of mentoring relationships go on for years, but Massive needed support in that final leg - sometimes you just need someone else to believe in what you’re doing to give you the confidence to go for it.”
If there are other people out there who are considering becoming a mentor, Anastasia says that she would encourage them to ‘just go for it’, and not to be put off by the idea that they may not be in a similar field to their prospective mentees. Anastasia says:
“You don’t have to be an expert in your mentee’s industry, a lot of the time what your mentee needs is a sounding board, somebody to listen to their ideas. And that in itself is a skill you likely need in your day job; for example, having to listen in meetings and presentations before making a plan of action to move forward, so you’re passing on useful knowledge and professional skills as a mentor, but developing your own at the same time. Mentoring gets you a qualification, it gets you out of the office and gives you another element of your working life too, so whilst you’re of course helping the mentee on their journey, you really do get a lot out of it for yourself too.”