The art of business mentoring

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Batanai Kamunyaru

Studies reveal that about 20% of startups fail in their first year, and about 50% fail in their fifth year, eventually leaving the success rate of companies over a period of 20 years to less than 5%. The statistics are very much applicable to almost every nation, Zimbabwe included. Lack of business mentorship is one of the reasons for higher startup failure rates. Either the upcoming entrepreneurs fool themselves that they know it all or there is a lack of business leaders who are willing to mentor or coach startups.

Starting and running a business successfully is not always easy as it may sound. There are several principles, processes, teachings, etc, that one must follow to launch successfully and remain in business. A good idea is not enough for a successful business, hence the reason why some inferior ideas make more money than some breath-taking ideas. Having the idea is just the beginning and not the end. It is irrational from start-up entrepreneurs to think that the idea is the end of it all. For an idea to be meaningful and have the potential to attract customers, it must solve problems and needs! Nothing else. People will never be attracted to your idea because of who you are, it is their need or problem that pulls them to the solution that you will be providing. Without any problem or need that you will be meeting with your idea (generated into a product, service or business), you will be luck if your own relatives buy the product!

Consequently, more than 95% of the startups fail because their businesses will not be solving any serious problems, or there was no real business opportunity in the market. Therefore, when you want to build a business, look for an opportunity (a favourable set of circumstances that create a need for a new product, service or business). Your opportunity must be attractive, durable, timely and obviously anchored in a product, service or business that creates or adds value for the customer. If your opportunity does not meet the four qualities, there is no point in you making the product or starting the business for it has almost The art of business mentoring 100% chance of failing. So, what is crucial for every starting entrepreneur to know before getting excited about a new business “idea” or product is that the idea must fill a need and meet the criteria of an opportunity.

One key aspect ignored by the startup entrepreneurs is that of business mentorship or coaching. When you have identified an opportunity that meets the stated qualities, it is of key importance that you get people who have been in business or running successful businesses to mentor you or coach you. The process of mentorship or coaching will help you master certain skills and experience needed to run a business successfully.

A mentor or a coach is a vital asset to the growth of a startup. He or she can warn the business of problems on the horizon and help craft solutions to the problems. The years of experience of the mentor or coach can save the startup from major errors and mistakes that normally result in business closure and higher failure rates. If you are a coming up entrepreneur and you have no coach or mentor, it will not be surprising that the so promising opportunity goes to the dustbin soon! Business is never run in a simplistic manner as several coming up entrepreneurs think, unless if you are running a job in the name of a company! Growth of a company requires certain skills that are not easily found in everyone.

Mentorship or coaching should be at all stages of business, even from the pre-start stage (thus, the idea generation). Several upcoming entrepreneurs tend to be over-confident in what they will be doing and overlook the fact that no-one is perfect, causing them to take excessive risks that costs the business. Although taking risks is very important when you are setting up a business, the presence of a mentor in the business can provide a moderating effect on the overconfidence of the entrepreneur. Furthermore, mentorship or coaching helps the entrepreneurs to navigate some challenges that they would not have anticipated or dealt with before.

Nations that have mentorship or coaching programmes for upcoming entrepreneurs tend to do far much better economically, as entrepreneurship is what creates economic value. Therefore, entrepreneurship should be professionally supported in any nation that is serious about its economic development. The greatest companies in the world had mentors, for the idea alone is never enough to building a successful company. Also, nations that boast of development have some of the best entrepreneurship mentorship or coaching programs, which allows its people to be creative in solving their own problems. No nation will ever work towards the development of another nation for nothing – that which they get far exceeds that which they supply!

When real entrepreneurship is dead in a nation, so is its economy! Look at USA, look at China, look at Singapore, look at Israel and look at any nation that is successful – the underlying component to the economic development is entrepreneurship.

These nations have companies that are all over the world, making money for their nations. Yes, they create jobs in any nation that they go to, but that is never enough! Every nation needs to have a group of leaders and role model entrepreneurs to give guidance to the next generations – a sure way of building something sustainable! It is entrepreneurship that attracts FDI, and not FDI attracting entrepreneurship!! The value system of the mentors and coaches should be that outlined by Jethro, Moses’ fatherin-law, in Exodus 18:21 (NLT), “But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.” There is a greater need for the next generation to be mentored and coached in business, in a way that hates bribes – for bribes never build anything beneficial. Nations that are successful economically have pride in their own products, they use their own products not to sorely rely on another’s products! They talk right about their nations and they do that which benefit their nations more than the individual pocket. For success, the mentorship and coaching programs must harness the business expertise, skills and wisdom of senior business executives and professional people in line with the entrepreneur’s business development needs.

Good mentorship and coaching programmess result in entrepreneurs having pride in their own nation. It is shameful if the citizens of a nation have no pride in their own nation – such a nation will never develop meaningfully. One of the major traits of a nation that has no pride is brides – no wonder Jethro discouraged it more than 2 thousand years ago! Check the poor nations in the world, the people have no hope whatsoever in their own! Also, good mentors provide the right networks for the new entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, when you have identified an opportunity and developed a product, service or business, look for a role model businessman to mentor or coach you. Look for trustworthy men with solid values and follow them, for they are the man who will help you to build a lasting empire. Shortcuts in business have temporary or shortlived results, and some of the results are very detrimental. Attentively listen and follow their advice, for it has potential to make you a better businessman. King Solomon says in Proverbs 19:20 (NLT), “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” Obviously, when choosing a mentor or coach, choose individuals who have proved themselves in their own businesses or careers, and who support your endeavours. If you wrongfully pick people who are not experienced in business, you will be misled and fail to achieve your goals. Also, the fact that someone is older than you do not guarantee that they are wiser and understand how everything is run. Jesus Christ once illustrated, ““What good is it for one blind man to lead another? He will fall into a ditch and pull the other down with him. How can a student know more than his teacher? But if he works hard, he may learn as much.”

Today, many countries are faced with enormous economic challenges, including high unemployment rates and a young growing population, making creation of jobs a major importance. It is real entrepreneurship that may help in eradicating some of the problems, therefore any efforts towards the creation of jobs should be supported and protected! The greatest support will come in the form of mentors and coaches to guide the new entrepreneurs!

In the words of Richard Branson, “Mentorship is key to unlocking each of our entrepreneurial spirits.” To build a lasting business, get a mentor or coach to help you!

! Batanai Kamunyaru is a business writer, speaker and coach. He can be contacted on bat. kamunyaru@gmail.com or +263 718 852 489.