By Staff Reporter of Guyana Chronicles- November 19, 2017
AS the world celebrates Entrepreneurship Week, the questions are;
Where are our business mentors? And are they willing to help our vulnerable groups?
Let me first commend our First Lady Mrs. Sandra Granger for the astute path she has adopted with respect to promoting entrepreneurial training initiatives in Guyana. No doubt, this initiative is welcome and it must have been endorsed by His Excellency President David Granger and his cabinet. It is commendable and must be allowed to develop as it brings some degree of support to society’s vulnerable groups, i.e Youth and women.
The more our youth and women are given opportunities to become successful business owners in our society, the greater their chances are of becoming citizens who can positively contribute to our country’s socio-economic development.
Entrepreneurship training programmes do provide that opportunity; more so, if the training is community organized — as I read about in the printed media– the entire community gains. Goods and services would be provided and ultimately jobs created. So the lead taken by the First lady, the organisations conducting the training and the governing administration must be applauded.
It is important to note though that just as training is essential for start-up entrepreneurs, continuous business mentoring is essential for business survival too. Business survival is crucial; and we must have mechanisms in place to support even bad business decisions made by our above-mentioned vulnerable groups (youth and women). Let us not fool ourselves, owning and operating any business after start-up is not the easiest of tasks, especially for beginners or start-ups. Working along with poor business decisions, especially when your debts are accumulating, does not rest well on one’s mind.
It is absolutely necessary to recognise early, signs of a business in difficulty and what it means, so that sound business decisions can be taken. Signs such as:
- Low sales volume; which may be indicating, insufficient demand at a selling price needed to return enough profits to support the business operation.
- Poor choice of location; poor marketing strategy
- Excessive operating expenses: bank payments seem to be using up all profits from sale.
- Inability to foresee shortfall situations:
- Inadequate operating records;
- Ineffective use of their business plans;
- Ineffective use of cash-flow projections to monitor operations
The business aptitude that is required to handle such a situation may be unknown to new start-ups. Having seen the evidence of these, where does help come from? Is there anyone or any institution that is known to these new start-ups that they can turn to for sound business mentoring or advice? Who are our business mentors? Are they prepared to work for free? Not that I am advocating that they should or should not.
They may be members of the donor community who may have a mandate from their governments or organisations, to facilitate youth and women entrepreneurial development, who are these ones. The point is that business mentoring is a needed crutch to support our vulnerable groups. In my humble opinion, we need a number of business mentors, organised mentorship programmes and we need them now, more so, a well established institution such as Critchlow Labour College that can act as the hub for entrepreneurial learning and mentoring.
A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could. Ask any successful businessman and, if they are honest about it, they will almost certainly admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point along the development of their businesses.
Let’s establish a Guyana Institution for Mentoring this vulnerable group as they use their socio- economic skills to fight off unemployment as we drive to promote entrepreneurship, creating livelihoods for all.
Founder and Executive Director
Guyana Entrepreneurial Youth Movement (GEYM)
Business mentoring/advising is a highly effective way to achieve fast growth for your business. A business mentor/advisor is “someone whose experience and past achievements can become integral to getting your business preforming better” Below is an outline guide for prospective businesses and for individuals seeking One to One business mentoring. It answers several questions:
- BUSINESS MENTORING – WHAT IS IT?
Business mentoring is often confused with management consulting and business coaching, but it is different!
Management consulting is based on the expertise, knowledge, skill set and technology of the consultant. The consultant’s skill set is focused on building their own internal resources, in order to apply them for the client company’s benefit.
Business coaching assumes that the client has the necessary capability and helps them to discover it for themselves.
Business mentor/advisor targets the personal development of people who are well versed in their fundamental technical skills but need extra assistance in other skills areas, expertise or knowledge.
- HOW MUCH DOES THE SERVICE COST?
Typical business mentoring contracts are for four hours a month, delivered in one or two sessions, over a period of six to twelve months. However, we have several clients whom we have been mentoring for over several years and the frequency of these sessions become less over time. At Business Propeller we guarantee that any fee charged, your business will recoup all these costs over the period of the contract, either through new business development or operational cost savings.
Business Propeller give a free diagnostic report from your answers to their online assessment tool and a follow up free mentoring session to assess you and your business needs.
Rate; £150 per hour – (based on booking a minimum of 4 hours, which is taken in 2 x 2 hour sessions) or £1050 per day – (based on booking a minimum of 8 hours, which is taken in 4 x 2 hour sessions)
- WHAT IS THE ROLE AND VALUE OF THE BUSINESS MENTOR?
Business mentors/advisors leverage their knowledge and experience by providing advice, counsel, network contacts and political and cultural know-how, together with ongoing personal support and encouragement. The business mentor’s interest is to foster and develop the career of the entrepreneur and their business.
THE VALUE OF BUSINESS MENTORING TO THE ORGANISATION!
At its best, business mentoring is a process that activates the skills of the entrepreneur within their current role. Business mentoring helps them to produce high quality decisions that define them, their authority and their effectiveness. A business mentor provides a confidential sounding board, thinking room, and support for working through crucial and often complex decisions. Business mentoring can also help organisations to retain their best people and increase staff loyalty.
BUSINESS MENTORING PROGRAMME QUALITY
The quality achieved in a business mentoring programme often hinges on the expertise of those establishing the programme in achieving the right fit between entrepreneur and mentor. The best results are often achieved when the mentor and entrepreneur like and respect each other and where the personal chemistry is right.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR THE ENTREPRENEUR?
A business mentor, by virtue of their experience, will be able to help the entrepreneur get clarity on their business goals. Perhaps more importantly, the business mentor will help the entrepreneur to understand some of the more informal ways of getting things done and some of the unwritten and unstated ways of working, and therefore develop the entrepreneur’s professional expertise.
The business mentor is someone with whom the entrepreneur can discuss and work through concerns or opportunities (short term and long term) that their businesses face.
Talking with someone such as a business mentor, who can bring a wider perspective, may help the entrepreneur to recognise what is happening and identify the best way to quickly grow their businesses.
- WHAT MAKES A GOOD BUSINESS MENTOR/ADVISOR?
As a good business mentor/advisor, they will have certain characteristics.
They will have a strong desire to help others to grow and develop. All our mentors have a track record in developing others.
They will have a strong understanding of how businesses work (formally and informally), and an implicit knowledge and understanding of the entrepreneur’s key challenges. They will combine this with an understanding of both the strategic direction of the organisation and what its drivers and those of the wider industry are.
They will have strong listening skills.
They will be self-aware.
They will be able to understand and deal with cultural and gender differences and be sensitive to these differences.
THE PRACTICALITIES OF BUSINESS MENTORING
There are some things that the entrepreneur, as the business mentor, will need in order to optimise the return on your time.
Make yourself available and accessible to your mentor/advisor. Where you have contracted to meet every so often, you should be sure to honour that commitment.
The business mentor/advsior will provide some initial structure to the business mentoring relationship, particularly if the entrepreneur is relatively inexperienced.
Being a business mentor requires the mentor to be highly skilled in listening, coaching, giving feedback and, where appropriate, pushing the entrepreneur along faster than they think they can go.
- WHAT MAKES A GOOD MENTEE?
A mentee must, of course, be prepared to take feedback. But to get the greatest possible benefit from a business mentoring relationship, there are several other things a mentee must do.
Own the business mentoring relationship
First and foremost, the mentee must own and take responsibility for the business mentoring relationship. Owning their business development is an important principle of of the process. No one has more interest in, or more to gain from, the progression of the entrepreneur business than the owner.
Be proactive in the business mentoring relationship
This means taking the initiative and setting the pace – with the agreement of the mentor. The entrepreneur must look at the business mentoring process as a project they are managing: as with any project, they should set milestones and make sure that they are achieved.
Manage the business mentoring agenda
The entrepreneur, not the mentor, should define the agenda of the business mentoring/advisory programme. If the entrepreneur does not work out what it is they want to do, they are in effect handing it over to others to determine their direction. Its a collaborative process!
Set objectives for the business mentoring programme
It is essential for the entrepreneur to:
– set himself or herself some objectives to work on during the mentoring relationship
– discuss these objectives with the business mentor and obtain their agreement
– review these objectives regularly with the mentor.
The entrepreneur also needs to make the business mentoring programme action-oriented, and always follow through on those actions they agreed. It is reasonable to expect that the business mentor will do the same.
- HOW TO MANAGE THE BUSINESS MENTORING RELATIONSHIP?
Be systematic in managing the business mentoring relationship, focusing on the three key areas:
The first meeting
The business mentoring contract
The ongoing business mentoring relationship.
(A) The first meeting
The first meeting between business mentor and mentee serves four purposes:
To get to know each other better
This can start with some introductions, followed by a brief run through what the business mentor and mentee have done in the past. This is important, not only as an ice breaker, but as a way for both parties to decide if they are happy to continue beyond the first meeting.
To articulate and agree expectations
Different or unrealistic expectations can be the cause of business mentoring relationships not working. Unrealistic expectations include:
– the mentee expecting the business mentor to sort out their business
– the mentee expecting the mentor to make their own personal network of contacts available to them
– the mentee expecting the mentor to tell them what to do – or, worse, to do it for them
– the business mentor expecting the mentee to do exactly what they tell them.
To set and agree ground rules
Ground rules are things such as frequency and length of meetings.
To set objectives
The mentee should come to the meeting with some draft objectives covering what outcomes they would like to achieve through the mentoring. These should be discussed and agreed with the business mentor.
(B) THE BUSINESS MENTORING CONTRACT
By the end of the first meeting, you will be in a position for the mentee to go away and draw up a business mentoring contract by which you will both work. This covers some important principles, such as confidentiality. It also provides structure and ensures that mentor and mentee have a common understanding of how they will work together.
The business mentoring contract will cover some or all of the following:
frequency of face-to-face meetings and/or telephone meetings, with a schedule of dates
mechanisms for communicating between meetings (for example, email or phone)
duration of the business mentoring relationship
a statement on confidentiality that applies to mentor and mentee – usually the Chatham House Rule
tracking and review of the business mentoring process and reporting back
objectives – a statement of what they are, plus dates for review
scope of the mentoring – it is usually best to be explicit about what is and is not included
a statement from the mentee agreeing that they will be proactive and drive (project manage) the business mentoring relationship
date for final review and closure – although the mentor and mentee may decide to continue beyond formal closure.
(C) THE ONGOING BUSINESS MENTORING RELATIONSHIP
Both the mentor and the mentee have a role to play in managing the ongoing business mentoring relationship.
The deal for the business mentor is to honour the terms of the contract:
achieving agreed objectives and reviewing outcomes
attending the agreed meetings and not rescheduling
following through on any actions agreed
exercising skills such as listening, giving feedback
as the mentee and the relationship progress, stepping back and adapting your style to fit the new circumstances.
The mentee’s responsibilities are:
to be proactive, ensuring that the terms of the business mentoring contract are adhered to and that scheduled meetings take place
to ensure that the objectives jointly agreed at the first meeting are being worked on and the outcomes tracked thereafter
as they grow in confidence and experience, to take the lead and lessen any dependency they may have on the business mentor
to aim to move towards closure on the formal business mentoring relationship finally, to think about what they can do to make a contribution back to their mentor.