NextAdvisor Michelle Wright: How to approach a business advice relationship?

Michelle Wright trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and played the violin professionally. A chartered marketer, manager and fundraiser, Michelle founded award winning third sector organisational development and fundraising enterprise Cause4 in 2009 after leaving the London Symphony Orchestra, where her achievements in private sector fundraising led to her being judged the Best Upcoming Fundraiser at the National Fundraising Awards in 2008.

Michelle was the winner of the female entrepreneur category in the Natwest Startup awards 2011 and is a top 10 winner in the Ernst and Young Future 100 awards 2011 for entrepreneurs under 35 that demonstrate innovation in progressing a responsible business venture. She is a silver award winner in the 2012 international Stevie Awards for female innovator of the year and was invited in 2013 to become an Accelerate 250 member in recognition of the UK's top growing businesses.

Michelle is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

Michelle is a mentor for emerging entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs for the Aspire Foundation, Cranfield Accelerator Network, Emerge Venture Labs and the Mastermind Network.

TNW: Tell us about your current role/venture. What’s at the top of your mind with regard to your business?

MW: Cause4 was set up in May 2009 to support charities, social enterprises and philanthropists in development and fundraising across the charity, arts, sports and educational sectors. The organisation works in three main areas: strategy and fundraising, philanthropy and enterprise development.

We seek to be a modernising influence and leader within the charitable sector, offering relevant, contemporary solutions for charities and social enterprises at a time when more creative, entrepreneurial approaches are much needed.

Our influence lies in the development of excellent charitable initiatives of innovation and also the level of funds raised. We’re proud to have raised over £22m in four years.

We’ve grown fast in the four years since we were set up – so what’s top of mind is how we set up the infrastructure to maintain quality as we seek to grow. We’re also thinking about how we manage international work and the staffing infrastructure that we need to ensure that this sort of complex international work can be developed effectively.

TNW: Which business topics are you most interested in providing advice on?

MW: I would be interested in providing advice on anything related to setting up business structures for social enterprises or social businesses that are ready to scale.

I am also interested in creating ideas and developing entrepreneurial cultures within startup businesses.

I also have a particular expertise in mixed funding models – including charitable, social investment and more traditional investment models.

TNW: How should a NextAdvisee approach their relationship with you, to get the best out of you?

MW: Be prepared for the session! Approach it with openness and curiosity so that we can develop the very best ideas together.

TNW: What do you see as the benefits of an advice relationship, for the advisor?

MW: Mentoring is always a learning relationship and the best conversations are when it feels totally two way!

I find that the mentoring I do is really energizing and gives me new ideas and determination to move my own business forward.

TNW: Do you currently have a mentor?

MW: I currently have two coaches to help with different areas of the business – one on my personal skills development and one on the development of the business. I think it’s pretty essential to have a range of people who can help – and to realise that you need a combination of people to help with different things at different times.

TNW: Which business matters have you most needed advice on during your career?

MW: Working out the best way to scale a business without it being too uncomfortable for staff as you grow.

Sound financial advice is also essential, as is knowing when to accept investment and forecasting.

As I undertake a lot of organisational development work I have become increasingly interested in organisational culture and how you can change cultures to support business objectives.

TNW: What is the most useful lesson you have learned from a mentor?

MW: 

Be yourself and be authentic. I think this is key to good leadership.

I also encourage all the start up entrepreneurs I work with to be absolutely truthful about what they want to achieve and how ambitious they want to be. There is no point creating an ambitious business plan if what you really want to achieve is a steady income that affords you a certain lifestyle – neither approach is right or wrong but knowing the essentials is the most effective basis from which to derive a business model. I think that a lot of businesses fail as the entrepreneur isn’t honest about ambition at the outset.

TNW: Who would be your dream mentor in a fantasy world (they can be living or a historical figure)?

MW: Eleanor Roosevelt – I really admire what she stood for and that she wasn’t afraid to make herself unpopular, for example through her stand on racial issues.

I also love the quotes that are attributed to her. A favorite that I return to on bad days is:

 ‘You must do the thing you think you cannot do’

– very motivating!

 Michelle is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

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