Friday, March 19, 2010

Prince's Trust

I had my panel interview with the Prince's Trust the other day, and the good news is they thought I was great, so I'm getting all sorts of support from them.

The most important part, to me, is being put on their "business mentor" scheme, where a young entrepreneur (I still count as young by their definitions, how good is that?) gets matched up to an older and more experienced businessperson who can offer guidance and support. This neatly bypasses the "if you know it all about business, why are you working for a teacher's wage rather than running a successful company?" question asked of all business studies teachers throughout the ages.

I have nothing but praise for the Prince's Trust so far. Everyone I've dealt with has been positive and flexible, and although there have been some unexpected access barriers I've revealed that they hadn't noticed previously, these have been dealt with rather than ignored. Admittedly not with perfect solutions, for example I had to travel to Coventry for the panel meeting and I had to pay my PA for that myself, which wasn't cheap - but on the other hand we shifted many of the things which would normally be onsite meetings to being email or phone conversations, or on one occasion, an advisor coming to meet me somewhere more local. I definitely feel like I've been met half way.

There was one marvellous moment in the panel interview where one panel member, trying to put me at my ease, started to say what I'm sure he says every time, something along the lines of "now please don't worry, I'm sure every applicant who sits in that chair feels a bit nervous but we're lovely really..." he got as far as the "ch" of chair before he remembered that he had moved The Chair because I was, in fact, sitting in my wheelchair. There were about two seconds of verbal hang-time before he grasped the word "position" and I swear, I felt like giving the man a round of applause for a wonderful save.

All in all, it's a definite improvement on the previous "business advisors" I was being passed around.


cogidubnus said...

"it's a definite improvement on the previous business advisors I was being passed around."

I suspect that, no matter how waffly he's presented by certain segments of the media, Charlie boy doesn't piss about...I get the impression he expects the best and generally gets it...good luck!

Amy said...

So pleased you've managed to find a more successful way forward!

Mary said...

My previous adviser (different org) had started by asking to see how far I'd got with my business plan. I emailed it to her and heard nothing back for six weeks - by which time I'd already had a lot of help from the PT and had registered my business and started trading.

Nevertheless I had a look at the "advice" she gave me on my half-completed business plan, only to find it consisted of putting notes saying "you must complete this section" on the sections I had not, six weeks earlier, completed.

The one before that gave me such awful and inaccurate advice that I had to phone HMRC in a panic to make sure that it was bull-poop.

The one before that tried to refer me to an agency which, as it transpired, did not help disabled entrepreneurs, only entrepreneurs who were trying to set up social enterprises for the benefit of disabled people like care agencies, benefits advice, or mobility centres.

It's a strange field.

Anonymous said...

This neatly bypasses the "if you know it all about business, why are you working for a teacher's wage rather than running a successful company?" question asked of all business studies teachers throughout the ages.

Mary, what would your mentors answer to the question be ????

Mary said...

That's the point. The mentors aren't teachers. They are people who are running successful businesses, and have been for some years, who have now chosen to do a few hours a month of voluntary work on the Business Mentor scheme.

Sarah said...

I have no comment, it's just that the word verification says popolop. Which amuses me.

Katie said...

You do need a YAY tick box as an option. Great news x

Unknown said...

I have my panel interview with the Prince's Trust tomorrow, I was wondering what the day was like for you?

What's the general procedure of the day? What kind of questions were you asked and if there is any definitive details you could give me that might help.

I've been trying to get some hard answers for preparation and have been unable to find much at all.

Anything you could tell me would be massively helpful!

Mary said...

Hi Jason

Easiest thing in the world. You turn up at the centre, sign in, and then you wait around a bit for your adviser. They might run a little late so be prepared for that.

You go into the room with your adviser right there next to you and there's three panel members sitting around a table. You are invited to join them and introduced to them. Your adviser remains in the room, but it's *your* job to answer the questions.

They are not scary people but they are "successful grownups" if you know what I mean, so if you're not used to dealing with people in suits, be ready for that. Ultimately, they *want* to help you. They just need to be sure that giving you the loan is going to help.

Scrub up nicely like you would for an interview. Bring with you a copy of your Business Plan, any documentation you have created (eg website copy), an up-to-date CV, that sort of thing - you may not need any of it but you'll impress them by being prepared.

They will ask you questions, one at a time, like how you intend to market yourself or what your pricing structure is... if you've done the business plan, it's all in there. Re-read your answers before going in. You don't need to memorise the exact numbers but you do need to show that you are clear on what you will be doing. Try not to waffle.

The panel takes about half an hour or so. You are told straight away whether you have been successful.

If you are unsuccessful, then your adviser will arrange another meeting with you to work out where it went wrong, and you can re-apply.

If you are successful, then your adviser takes you through to their office where you do the paperwork - things like the credit agreement and so on.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck!

Unknown said...

Thank you Mary, it's great to get this kind of info from someone who went through it.

Any curve ball questions I should watch out for? Did you stumble on anything?

I've been thoroughly scrubbed up throughout my dealings with them. I couldn't imagine applying for this kind of loan and not looking my best, it shocked me that I was the only person in my introductions and business course that was in a suit!

Thanks again Mary.

Mary said...

The only bit I recall that wasn't in the Business Plan was when they asked what I hoped to gain from the mentoring scheme. I wasn't expecting to be discussing that side of it with them - I thought we were only discussing the loan - so I think I waffled as I tried to explain that I wanted to be able to talk to someone with real business experience about my ideas, and more importantly, my difficulties and concerns, without having to try and project an image of confidence and success.

Seriously though - if you've been going to the introduction and course in a suit then your adviser probably loves you and that will be evident in the summary that the panel have seen.

I hope you come back and let me know how you got on. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information on the princes trust panel meeting I am going tomorrow been scouring the internet and came across your blog, really needed some reassurance on the way things will go down, even if it is 6 years after your post :)

Thank you :)

JListy said...

I've got my panel interview today. Thanks for the advice.