What is mentorship?
Business mentorship is about giving educational and/or professional development support provided by experienced peers.
An experienced professional helps an entrepreneur to set up and guide a start-up business and also helps to improve leadership, employee accountability, teamwork, sales, communication, goal setting, strategic planning and more. Mentors will help to put a business plan together and help you build your business and get it off the ground.
How to pick the right mentor
- Define a list of your top goals for the mentoring relationship
- Brainstorm a list of prospective mentors
- Research available information about them
- Prepare a short list of questions regarding their feedback on your current situation
- Ask them about their history, current situation, and experience
- Be sure to spell out your goals and expectations, as well as your commitment to them
- A written agreement will show you are serious about the commitment
What factors need to be considered when selecting a mentor?
There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when looking for assistance with your start-up. Mentorship helps entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to run a successful business. There are many sound mentorship organisations in South African that focus on small and medium enterprises.
A mentee seeks guidance to develop specific competencies, self-awareness, and business skills. The mentor is a person who has expertise in the areas of need identified by the mentee and shares their wisdom in a nurturing way. The most importing thing about choosing the right mentor is that you can relate and get along with the mentor.
Mentoring relationship types
There are two types of mentoring relationships: formal and informal. The best mentors work, or have worked, in similar fields’ to your entrepreneurial venture, and the only way to establish if a mentor has the experience and skills the mentee needs, is to meet with them and find out, face-to-face, if that person can offer what you are looking for.
Types of business mentorship
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of mentorship – face-to-face mentorship, or online mentoring. Online business mentoring or ‘e-mentoring’ is an interactive, remote relationship between a mentor and mentee. It takes place over the internet rather than the usual traditional face-to-face meetings.
Business mentors use online forums and websites – similar to social networking sites – where they share their knowledge and experience. The mentor applies to register as a mentor, is vetted by the website and then has their profile viewed by potential mentees.
Deciding how much mentoring you need
If you choose to get involved in face-to-face business mentoring, mentor and mentee need to agree about involvement and the kind of structure you want.
The degree of involvement you need
Some mentors and mentees work extremely closely with each other, speaking or meeting most weeks or even most days. Others don’t. It all depends on how much guidance you need.
The level of structure you want
Mentoring can be a very formal and structured process with regular meetings which follow a specific agenda and set of goals. It can also be quite a casual arrangement, where the mentee calls on the mentor as and when problems or questions arise.
How much does mentoring cost?
There are free mentorship programmes available in South Africa and there are programmes where you are expected to pay a fee. To find out who offers free services and which programmes are not free visit Entrepreneur’s SME Mentorship & Support Directory
Organisations which provide free mentorship
Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda). Seda mentors small business and medium-sized enterprises equipping entrepreneurs with invaluable information on starting, managing and growing a business. Seda provides non-financial and technical support for SMME sustainability and have branches throughout South Africa.
The Khula Mentorship programme offers two services − pre-loan and post loan mentorship. During the pre-loan stage entrepreneurs are assisted by experienced mentors with advice, counselling and the development of viable business plans in order to access funding. In the post-loan stage clients are assisted with various aspects of managing a successful business as identified by the client, mentor, bank and Khula.
National Youth Development Fund (NYDF)-One of the NYDF’s aims is to promote entrepreneurship among young people. In order to offer support, the Business Consulting Services of the NYDF offer business development support, for those starting a brand new business. BCS gives you one-on-one, face-to-face attention and guidance.
The Business Place is a network of walk-in centres for entrepreneurs who will find relevant support and information services clustered under one roof. Mentorship includes all the “how to’s” and “next steps” for anyone who wants to start a business.
Singayenza-Operating in the Western Cape, Singayenza helps entrepreneurs with identification and assessment of BEE SME opportunities in rural areas. They provide free mentorship support assist with full bookkeeping and administration service to each SME BEE business that they mentor.
The Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) is located in the Limpopo Province. It is a not-for-profit, pro-poor microfinance institution working towards the eradication of poverty by creating a supportive environment where credit and savings services foster sustainable income generation, job creation and social empowerment.