Some time ago in an interview with a local Afrikaans daily, I mentioned the important role my late father in law, Dr Anton Rupert, played in being a mentor and tutor in my life – encouraging me to keep an open mind, to stay up to date with new trends and developments and to make enough time to think.
I do believe that in today’s competitive business environment, those of us with business experience, should set an example and encourage a culture that will enable new entrepreneurs and business people to be successful.
This week on fin24.com, Ravi Govender, head of small enterprises at Standard Bank, shared my sentiments and gave some very useful information to keep in mind when looking for such a mentor or tutor – especially in the world of business. At the same time these are handy guidelines for those who would like to be a mentor.
Govender advises that a mentor should be prepared to:
– Share insights based on personal experience and business mistakes so that you can avoid similar pitfalls;
– Allow you to benefit from 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.
Not everyone is as lucky as I was to have someone in the family to fulfill this mentor’s role though. Although it might not be easy to identify someone you can trust , Govender shares some important considerations.
– Find someone who has been successful in a similar field (even if no longer actively involved in business). Retired entrepreneurs will often take on a mentorship role simply to keep themselves occupied;
– Join local business organisations. By attending functions, you could locate someone suitable;
– Ask people in your network to suggest someone;
– 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 in specific fields, such as small businesses. This will ensure that the mentor you eventually select will be experienced in a particular sector.
I know what an important role a mentor played in my life and especially if you are starting out on your own, having someone with your best interest at heart guiding you, might just give you that extra edge in a competitive and tough business environment.
“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,” said Govender.