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Business Case Study: Build-A-Bear's Mentoring Program

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  • 0:04 About Build-A-Bear Workshop
  • 1:01 Mentoring in Business
  • 2:43 Mentoring at…
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Loy

Dr. Loy has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics; master's degrees in economics, human resources, and safety; and has taught masters and doctorate level courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and management.

Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW) is a global company that has been named one of the 50 best places to work. One of the reasons for the high ranking is BBW's mentoring program. This lesson looks at the program established by BBW's founder Maxine Clark.

About Build-A-Bear Workshop

Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW) is a company built on individual imagination. Headquartered in St. Louis, MO, the company now has over 400 stores worldwide. Consumers purchase an experience as much as they do a custom stuffed animal. They get to create a bear, or other toy of choice, and have it stuffed right in front of them. They get to dress, accessorize, name, and even give sound to their new companion. Most of the time it becomes a part of the family.

This business model, created by Maxine Clark in 2007, has made investors millions. With over 4,000 employees internationally, she has the reputation of being a great leader. Clark, however, credits her mentor with being the person who contributed the most to her success. Clark's experience motivated her to be a mentor, especially for women, wherever her career takes her. Let's look at what it means to be a mentor and how BBW has used this concept for its benefit.

Mentoring in Business

To Clark and many Fortune 500 leaders, mentoring has been a consistent part of their careers. In business, a mentor is someone who coaches an employee to become a better leader. This could be the leader of the office, mailroom, parking garage, team, division, branch, or company. It's a step all great managers must take to be successful. Let's look at the attributes of an accomplished mentor like Clark.

Being a mentor means teaching. Let's look at Manny. Manny is Leon's mentor at the Growth Academy, a fitness equipment company. When making decisions he shares his process of getting information, using his resources, and implementing his final decisions. This has made Leon more resourceful in difficult situations.

Imparting wisdom often comes naturally to mentors. Manny, for example, is considered wise beyond his years. He has 20 years with the company. Manny recently began sharing his wisdom with Leon on how to make employment decisions. With Manny's guidance, Leon has witnessed the recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and firing process. Now, Leon has these experiences to help him make authoritative decisions in the future.

Preparing for the unforeseeable and finding ways to manage risk is an essential part of a manager's job. Manny has an approach to risk that was new to the Growth Academy. He not only tries to balance risk, he attempts to predict it. Manny has implemented a sweeping risk management training regimen for employees that combines virtual and in-person activities.

Now that the program is successful, he's phasing his participation out as he plans to take on a new international project. Leon has been working with some of the developers to update the training. In the process, Manny mentored Leon on how to use the approach to mitigate and predict risk at the company.

Mentoring at Build-A-Bear Workshop

Experienced leaders are able to naturally incorporate mentoring into their day-to-day regimen. In many ways, Clark describes it as an informal process. Her belief is that mentoring is part of being a good manager, much like Manny. Let's look at how BBW does this. Setting an example, teaching, and coaching are all a part of being a mentor. Led by Clark, BBW engages in mentoring techniques that are at the heart of the company's management culture.

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