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The value of a business mentor

Aug 20 2014 16:12
Fin24

Cape Town - Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, especially when you don’t have an associate with whom you can discuss various aspects of your business and its challenges, says Ravi Govender, head of small enterprises at Standard Bank.

Enter the business mentor: Someone who can provide an independent view and valuable advice when you really need it.

Mentors come in many forms, according to Govender. They can be people close to you - such as entrepreneurial parents, who have helped nurture your ambitions.

This support can also be provided by respected friends, who understand business or this role can be played by professional mentors, who specialise in assisting business owners in specific business sectors.

“Mentorship can make all the difference between being a businessperson with promise or a successful one," said Govender.

"Whoever your mentor is, their strengths should lie in their ability to provide considered views and opinions that can help you solve business dilemmas as they occur.”

A true mentor should have several important personal attributes and an open approach.

Govender advises that a mentor should be prepared to:

- Share insights based on personal experience and speak honestly about business mistakes they have made so that you can avoid similar pitfalls;

- Allow you to benefit from their wide-ranging business knowledge;
 
- Provide you with a summary of the upside and downside of tough choices or deals you face;

- Invite you into business networks they belong to so you can benefit by associating with people who could help build your business;

- Review with you what is happening within the business and how these events can help you focus on priorities;

- Not only advise you, but also motivate you to achieve your goals;

- Question you and test your ideas, so that you see your business differently and open your mind to new concepts;
 
- Give you constructive feedback where it is required;

- Assist you with strengthening your relationships with employees and introducing tools and techniques to ensure that key staff is retained by the business;

- Help you identify people with skills that can be developed for the benefit of the business.

“Important to note, is that finding a mentor isn’t as easy as picking up the phone. But there are several ways of finding someone suitable,” said Govender.

Some things to consider are:

- Finding someone who has been successful in a similar field, but may no longer be actively involved in business. Retired entrepreneurs will often take on a mentorship role simply to keep themselves occupied;

- Joining local business organisations. By attending functions, you could locate someone suitable;

- Ask people in your network to suggest someone suitable for the role;

- Target a businessperson whom you respect and admire, and simply ask them if they would be prepared to mentor you;

- Use the internet to locate organisations that specialise in providing mentors for small businesses. This will ensure that the mentor you eventually select will be experienced in a particular sector.

“There is no doubt that a mentor can provide valuable insights and support for businesspeople needing a sounding board to help them maximise available opportunities and realise the full potential of their businesses,” said Govender.

“Regardless of where or how you find a mentor, the key thing to remember is that he or she should be a friend, who will provide independent, unbiased support and guidance. Find a mentor who becomes a friend, and you and your business will reap massive rewards.”

* Find out more about Standard Bank's Think Big series of entrepreneurship here.

- Fin24

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