Business Partners International (BPI) Malawi, a fund manager that provides debt equity financing, has advised budding entrepreneurs to consider finding mentors to grow their businesses especially in a depressed economic, complex and challenging environment.
BPI Country Manager Akuzike Kafwamba said in an interview yesterday that mentorship offers access to the tools and expertise a business requires to grow.
“It is well proven that guidance and advice from a mentor can offer as much value as any other form of training, if not more. This is due to the support being tailor-made to the specific needs of the business and offering expertise that are lacking within the business. Guidance from a mentor with extensive experience can help to significantly shorten a less experienced entrepreneur’s learning curve, often saving valuable time and money.”
“It is therefore vital that a business owner knows how to seek appropriate mentors and consultants to help steer them in the right direction,” said Kafwamba.
He said entrepreneurs need to master some tips to manage to locate mentors easily, one of which is shared core values.
“Having clear core values is incredibly important to guiding your business. It informs how decisions are made, how teams are managed and whether the business is heading in the right direction. It stands to reason that mentors add the most value when they understand and align with their mentee’s core values.”
“The likelihood of finding a mentor that is willing to spend their time offering guidance is also far greater if you share the same values. When initially talking to prospective mentors, ask them about the values that drive their own companies, and take the conversation further if you find that their values echo your own,” advised Kafwamba.
He also said an informal approach encourages entrepreneurs to even call veterans in the particular industry to ask them a question and also build trust.
“A specific question to an industry veteran can start a wider conversation and may even lead to a visit to your business premises. Many professionals are also more willing to meet for coffee over a weekend or after hours when the pressure is off. In this way, the first contact with the mentor runs very little risk of being unsuccessful, and both parties are able to get a sense of whether it will be worthwhile to build a formal mentor/ mentee relationship,” explained Kafwamba.
“Trust is paramount to a successful mentorship relationship, as is mutual respect between the two parties. As a business owner you must feel completely comfortable sharing information on all aspects of your business with your mentor.”
“With this in mind, avoid finding a mentor among competitors – instead, seek out individuals in unconnected industries that may share the same methods or challenges. Retired, or semi-retired business leaders and entrepreneurs are often great mentors as they have seen it all and have the time to spare and are not affiliated to any competitors,” added Kafwamba.
BPI Malawi further urges the budding entrepreneurs to be willing to learn new things.
“Any form of mentorship will be of little use if the entrepreneur is not open to suggestions and new ways of doing things. Good mentors usually have little time to spare, and therefore will be unlikely to continue with mentees who are too rigid and unwilling to take on their advice.”
“It is possible to hold on to the vision for your business while being open to different paths for reaching one’s goals. Keep this in mind, and make a point of conveying to prospective mentors that you are willing to learn,” advised Kafwamba.