• George Oliver

Why 1284 mentors Generation Next future leaders

1284 founder George Oliver is a volunteer mentor for the East Midlands Chamber's Generation Next programme. The scheme is a network for future business leaders in the region.

George was invited to speak with Business Network Magazine about why he had signed up.

What can you offer to Generation Next members as a mentor?

We are slightly unusual in that myself and my associates have worked as editors of large regional newspapers – I founded 1284 after leaving the Leicester Mercury after working as editor from 2016 to 2020. It means we have good knowledge of the workings of the media.

Our approach is to combine that with SLT-level business leadership experience and strong regional networks.

1284 provides a premium service but at a range of entry points. This means we support change leaders at various stages of their development.

For example, alongside our commercial consultancy we provide reduced or pro bono support to selected start-ups, charities and social enterprises.

Why did you want to sign up for the mentoring scheme?

I like the idea in Brad Feld’s 2012 book Startup Communities, that “entrepreneurial leaders follow a give before you get philosophy”. Feld argues that, by using your experience and skills to support the growth of others, you can reasonably expect, in some way, to ultimately get back more than you invest.

I became interested in how my support might be most usefully and impactfully be provided.

One way was free mentoring for future regional leaders and exciting startups that would otherwise not have the opportunity of specialist comms support.

It’s why I also volunteer for Charity Link and Leicester Startups.

Why is mentoring an important part of career and personal development?

My company specialises in regional development and innovation because, like good regional news campaigns, they have the potential to make positive difference at scale.

As a regional journalist, I was interested in how content could be used to develop communities through public affairs and campaigning. I suppose 1284 continues that idea.

I’m an advocate of CPD and have been both mentor and mentored over the years.

There is real value in having guidance from an experienced person when working as a young manager or new business leader.

I remain in regular contact with those who have mentored me since I was a junior reporter 17 years ago – including guest lecturing for one of my former bosses on the journalism programme at the University of Derby.

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