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The End …. or a New beginning

The mail from Cherie Blair foundation, reminded me about time to end the mentoring relationship with my mentee Clare Appleyard. It’s been an year already! ….. seriously?…. Doesn’t seem so. A relationship which has blurred the lines of mentee-mentor, and moved into the realm of a relationship called friendship … could not end.

It’s also time for me to reflect. It’s not too late to think, if it is fair to call myself a mentor! Clare tells me she has seen 35% growth in her business. Well .. let me also share … I’ve had about 95% growth in my business. My gains from the relationship has been far more than I could ever imagine.

A flashback on the year that was.

When I signed up for being a mentor with Cherie Blair Foundation (CBF) and wasn’t sure what to expect. The introductory mail informing & connecting me to Clare Appleyard, added to my anxiety, wondering whether I could contribute to a diamond expert based South Africa. Clare runs Katannuta Diamonds, an independent jewelry design and manufacturing organisations specializing in engagement rings.

Clare’s mail was in quick successions after the mail from CBF,  and a bit of back and forth we decided to have our first meeting Skype. The conversation started with both of us introducing ourselves, our families, work, hobbies and everything else. The big decision taken in the first meeting, was to meet every two weeks at 7:30 pm India Time [that 4:00 pm South Africa], for one hour on skype as first choice on whatsapp calling in case skype was not accessible.

Zeroing in on expectations from the mentoring relationship took a couple of meetings.

My initial apprehensions

Would I be able to mentor was the nagging question in my mind? Having designed a mentoring program myself, having introduced the concept of mentoring to many … the doubt wouldn’t leave me.

The next apprehension was I know practically nothing about diamonds. The only iota of hope I had was the consulting experience with start-up dealing with high end cosmetic jewellery.

South African culture is so different from ours was yet another apprehension.

Clare was wonderful from day one, and helped put all my apprehensions at bay. Clare took the lead (thank you Clare for that, being more of an introvert myself, I may have taken forever )

Starting off
The first session ended with a commitment from my end to do some homework and understand how the diamond industry works and I ustilised my two weeks browsing and reading on internet. Most of that I read, was from India and the Western countries, nevertheless was helpful. Reading about how the business works, typical customer profile, what determines buying decisions, the big names in the market etc etc

From the second session onwards, we started looking at past sales figures, product wise year wise, understanding customer profile and opportunities. This gave us some clarity what to speak on

The Website, marketing material, SEO, all followed subsequently. Clare took time also to explain to me how SEO works and I can tell you, she’s awesome at it. Her commitment to the program is one yet another thing I admire about her.

With a connect in “The lioness of South Africa Group” (through which Clare  was introduced to CBF), Vicky, she planned her Chocolate evening. For the evening a close group of HNI friends were inviting, offering them a chocolate specially designed for Katanuta Diamonds

Not sharing my apprehensions, about cross selling diamonds with chocolates was a boon and I’m so glad I didn’t. The success of the evening, was a stark reminder, to me, of how I was operating out of my past beliefs. 

For Clare the event also ensured her website with the new logo, her new business cards and all other material was ready. It indeed created a buzz in the relevant circles.

What else happened
All our meetings would start with review of the commitments made and met, what else happened, brainstorm ideas for future and concretising an action plan. Clare never ever forget to thank after each meeting. Another huge learning for me. Despite the growing friendship she never took the relationship for granted.

Be it updating the website, meeting and making new associations, completing the SEO, creating marketing material Clare always decided on the date and kept to her commitments. (Well …. Twice she didn’t and she was truly apologetic hen she didn’t)

What Worked
Our commitment to time and timings. We respected each other’s time. There were days when I got delayed in traffic, and we rescheduled the meeting to another day.

As mentee Clare took ownership of what she would do until next time, making her commitments and ensuring commitments were met.

What did the relationship mean to me, as a mentor
Well, I may have been designated as a mentor to Clare from the beginning, but indeed she played a crucial role in bringing out the mentor in me. Her commitment, her dedication, willingness to share when initiatives worked and when they didn’t, willingness to try, experiment and many more.

My biggest learning in the relationship, The MENTEE makes The MENTOR.
It’s this relationship and the role, that is responsible for bringing in the discipline in my planning and data observation.

About Clare:
A photographer, a social media expert, willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to try out new things, extremely passionate about her work, loves her pets … and I can add many more.

Upon reflection
Did I contribute anything? Did I do justice? Could I have done any better? Could I have done anything differently? To make the experience more meaningful I should take that feedback from Clare.

The future
We’ve decided to continue our meetings and this time around, I’m the mentee and she the mentor and this blog is a proof of keeping one of my commitment that I made to her Though it’s much later than the committed date, at least it happened.

A note to Clare
Thank you, Clare for being what you are. Can’t thank you enough. I wouldn’t have been a mentor without you. n

End Note

Before I end this blog, I also would like to thank The Cherie Blare foundation (And this platform)  that entrusted me with the opportunity and connected me with Clare.

In Learning you will Teach and in Teaching you will LearnPhil Collins

Katannuta Diamonds; Cherie Blaire Foundation

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