Power of business mentorship

Online since 15.09.2015 • Filed under Industry news • From Issue 2 - September 2015 - February 2016 page(s) 42-43
Power of business  mentorship

When asked about the importance of a mentor for the development and growth of a business, Business Partners Limited SME Index respondents for the second quarter of 2015 rated this service in their top five requirements.

According to Christo Botes, executive director at Business Partners Limited, who matches quality business mentors with business owners, all new business owners or entrepreneurs should find a mentor to assist and guide them on their business journey. However, he adds that this process does come with its challenges, and even once a mentor is found with the required skills to assist with a particular problem, the process may not be successful simply because of a clash of personalities. ‘But when the match works, there is enormous satisfaction in seeing potential and wealth unleashed,’ says Botes. Finding the right mentor must be handled with care. He offers the following tips to ensure a successful match:

• Begin by acknowledging that you cannot possibly know everything about running a business. Even if you are an exceptional all-rounder, individuals always have blind spots. A fresh pair of eyes can quickly spot the gaps and assist with unconsidered strategies.

• Before fixing your sights on a mentor, it may be a good idea to carry out a general business health check to establish the business’s strengths and weaknesses, and deciding whether you need a specialist or generalist mentor. Although it is possible to source specialist advice, it may still be a good idea to engage with a generalist mentor who can take a more detailed overview of the business.

• Commercial consultants, who charge commercial rates for short, specific interventions, are widely available, but structured business mentorship programmes aimed at matching retired experts and captains of industry who want to ‘give back’ are scarce in South Africa. Business owners can approach Government’s Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), business chambers, or search for a mentor within their own networks. There are significant resources available to business owners, such as Business Partners’ programme, one of the best resourced networks available in South Africa with over 370 mentors.

• Broaden your mentor profile. An accountant could act as a mentor and could look at a business holistically rather than just from a narrow accounting point of view. Modern training gives accountants good generalist skills, making them good advisors for administrative and governance issues.

• There is a distinct advantage to finding a mentor who does not need to make a living from giving advice and guidance. These mentors tend to be retired business people who are passionate about assisting entrepreneurs. Unlike commercial consultants, they generally don’t watch the clock as closely, and are more affordable and flexible.

• It is important to set clear terms of engagement, stipulating a certain number of hours or the scope of intervention. Mentor relationships can go bad when there are mismatched expectations. Just like any other service, shop around until you are able to find a good match.

• Guard against the mentor taking over business issues. This is easily done if the mentor is a retired industry leader used to taking change, or when a business owner feels overwhelmed and is looking to hand over responsibility. The mentor is there to give advice; the business owner must implement the changes.

• Business owners should also ensure that they do not develop an unhealthy dependency on the mentor.

Business ownership is often a lonely pursuit and every entrepreneur needs an outside confidant or a ‘go-to’ person to bounce ideas off, to discuss strategy, and to make those blind spots visible. Botes says that it is wise to lean on your own understanding and appreciate that there is wisdom in the counsel of many. ‘Mentoring is about empowering yourself to unleash your and your business’s full potential,’ he concludes.

Business Partners Limited is a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa, and selected African countries. The company actively supports entrepreneurial growth by providing financing, specialist sectoral knowledge and added-value services for viable small and medium businesses. For more information, visit www.businesspartners.co.za.

Issue 2 - September 2015 - February 2016

Issue 2 - September 2015 - February 2016

This article was featured on page 42-43 of SABI Magazine Issue 2 - September 2015 - February 2016 .

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