There are various ingredients used when baking bread, and no organisation knows this better than the Pioneer Foods Group. Just like bread, sustainable businesses are built when the right ingredients are used. This is the analogy that the Pioneer Foods Group has used in approaching its Enterprise Development (ED) project. Ingredients are elements, and in the business context these include an idea or business plan, business partners or beneficiaries, documentation (especially in the case of ED projects), tangible assets and funding. For each type of business there are variations in the amounts of each ingredient, but the basics stay the same.
The ‘salt’ in the mix of starting a business is mentorship. When an individual or a bigger business provides mentorship to SMEs and smaller companies receive mentorship it becomes a win-win situation with both partners benefitting from the relationship. While the SME will gain knowledge and learn from someone else’s mistakes, the individual or corporate providing the mentorship will gain BEE scorecard points and build its network of suppliers while focusing on significance and leaving a legacy. The person being mentored will also gain a different perspective on business issues and will be enabled to look at problems from a different angle. Having a mentor also provides that ‘someone’ to talk to, bounce ideas off and the knowledge that someone is on your side, believing in you. Entrepreneurship is a lonely place to be. Mentorship fills that gap.
Taking mentorship seriously
To benefit from the many advantages of mentorship the mentor has to be committed, expecting results and helping the entrepreneur to stretch his/her abilities. Ellen Odendaal, enterprise development manager of Pioneer Foods Group, spoke at the Africagrowth SMME Conference at Goldreef City in October 2011. She declared that, through the enterprise development programme, mentorship is taken seriously at Pioneer Foods. “Beneficiaries are chosen from the agricultural industry, which results in an improved value chain for Pioneer Foods.
Projects are built on definite principles and include transfer of skills, good corporate governance and financial management and leadership development of suitable beneficiaries. Mentors are catalysts for the development of new ideas, they transfer business and agricultural knowledge and are expected to analyse the original business plan of a beneficiary to measure the success of the intervention and to suggest and implement the necessary changes to the original project plan when circumstances surrounding the projects change. The mentorship programme guides entrepreneurs through the pitfalls of growth.”
Lulu Khumalo, executive of corporate affairs and sustainability at Pioneer Foods, says that the herence at Goldreef City, is one of the major variables impacting on the chances of success of a businesses support SMMEs”s enterprise development oneer Foods.n seriously.ndrs through the pitfalls of growth. the success of the intervention. ship is a lonely place tostrategy and policies are constantly revised to ensure that ED remains relevant and leads to broad-based and meaningful participation in the economy by black people. Sustainable development remains a focus in conjunction with increasing the extent to which black women own and manage existing and new enterprises, increasing their access to economic activities, infrastructure and skills training.
In starting and building a business, there are many challenges that an entrepreneur has to cope with, including various macro and micro environmental issues, lack of resources and multiple relationships. Through mentoring, an entrepreneur can be supported to cope with challenges and navigate around macro environmental changes. A sound mentoring programme will encourage collaboration between clients and suppliers, assisting the supplier to understand the needs of the client, improving communication throughout the supply chain, assisting in the decision making processes, leading to career development and strengthening quality of delivery from suppliers. The business benefits are combined with the effect on company morale, knowing that something good is achieved and an impact is being made of the success of entrepreneurs. Bonnie Jean Wasmund stated that; “People will forget what you said, and what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel”.
“Mentorship is to identify with a person and help them have confidence and a high self worth”, concludes Odendaal. “Entrepreneurship and, specifically agricultural entrepreneurship, can have a huge impact on the stability and economic well being of a country. It is important that corporates support SMMEs. Having the correct support is one of the major variables impacting on the chances of success of a business”.