CASE STUDY: Business mentor helps file management experts put their own house in order

A business mentor brought about a decisive change of direction when he took a file management company under his wing.

Ken Jenkinson and Melissa Amison set up File Management Solutions in March 2013, offering file and data storage services, largely to the health sector, schools and legal firms.

Ken had worked in mental health for more than a decade and had experience of setting up filing systems. He had also realised that many organisations had poor systems. “Retrieving files is often where the whole thing breaks down, so we thought the opportunity to do something was definitely there,” said Ken.

Melissa was attending courses organised by the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce when the suggestion was first put to her that a mentor might help her fledgling company.

She was introduced to Tom Tomkinson, a freelance consultant with a background in engineering and business development, in September last year. File Management Solutions was the first company he had mentored.

“After we first met he went away and analysed every single thing we did. He helped with a lot of constructive criticism and he’s given us a lot of motivation and drive,” said Melissa.

Crucially, Tom urged Ken and Melissa to steer their company in a completely new direction.  Instead of investing in premises for storage, he suggested they branch out into consultancy.

“Premises are expensive. I thought what they could sell best was their experience. I also suggested they develop a diagnostic tool which would measure and benchmark an organisation’s ability to manage its storage,” said Tom.

Melissa and Ken set about developing their Data management Assessment and Rating Tool – or DART – which evaluates companies’ storage and retrieval methods, and helps them comply with data protection and other legislation.

Tom said: “The real challenge for them was to actually think of themselves as consultants, as people who had experience and expertise.

“Now they have achieved that.”

Since Tom’s intervention the company has had several positive inquiries about consultancy services from a local authority and from schools, so the prospects are bright.

Ken had reservations at first about the value of a mentor because his previous experience of mentoring services elsewhere had been discouraging.

But Melissa said: “Tom is someone we can talk to whenever we get stuck, and we definitely wouldn’t have got as far as we have without him.”