Why mentorship is a key factor for business success

Entrepreneurship is an exciting journey filled with challenges and opportunities, and having a mentor to guide you along the way can make all the difference. Mentorship provides entrepreneurs with personalised support, sound business advice, and encouragement to develop their own abilities in order to achieve success.

We have worked with thousands of entrepreneurs over the years and found a marked difference in how businesses were transformed after they started working with a mentor.

The national average of businesses that fail within five years is between 70% and 80%, as reported by the University of the Western Cape. 90% of the business owners we support and have worked with a mentor are still operational.

What is mentorship?

As an entrepreneur, you may feel uncertain at times. Once your business is up and running, there’s no boss to turn to for advice. You may be flying solo; however you don’t have to go it alone.

Business coaches, mentors, and advisors all fulfil significant roles, and the trick to getting the most out of each is understanding their purpose.

Coaching and mentorship are often used interchangeably, but they are quite different. A mentor is someone who shares their knowledge, skills and/or experience, to help another to develop and grow. A coach provides guidance to help someone reach their goals and their full potential.

Mentorship differs notably in that it’s a reciprocal, personal relationship built over time to develop the mentee and their business. Also, a mentor doesn’t have to be in the same industry as the mentee.

A genuine mentor relationship is a two way street – your mentor gets to learn about new strategies from you while you gain wisdom from them. On top of that, it is often a reliable resource to help you start and grow your small business. 

Finding a mentor

Many people believe that finding a mentor to provide support is a pricey and confusing experience, but this isn’t always the case.

Start by reaching out to your friends and family, who may be able to recommend someone they know.

You can also use social media to connect with mentors in your industry or join mentoring groups. Once you’ve found a potential mentor, take the time to connect with them and understand more about their expertise before asking for their support.

Although it may take some time to find the right mentor, once you get there, you will reap the rewards.

Selecting a mentor

When choosing a mentor, it’s important to remember that they are not meant to have all the answers. Rather, they offer guidance, support, and encouragement regarding long-term goals and challenges, as well as career development.

A great mentor has the very thing an entrepreneur needs, experience. They can provide an external perspective when it comes to big-picture, longer-term thinking.

Making the most of the mentor/mentee relationship

A mentor can provide invaluable insight, advice, and encouragement, but ultimately it is up to the mentee to make the most of the relationship. Our advice to our programme participants is to ask questions, be willing to listen and accept advice. They need to be open and honest about any struggles they encounter along their journey.

A mentor can help entrepreneurs learn how to navigate challenges, particularly those in the social innovation space. They provide personalised support, sound business advice and encouragement to emerging entrepreneurs so that they can develop their abilities to achieve success.

They can also offer connection and support. Everyone needs a reliable sounding board, a second opinion, and emotional support when times get tough.

The entrepreneurial journey can often be lonely, and having someone you can lean on for advice and encouragement can make a huge difference.

Itumeleng Dhlamini, Head of entrepreneurial programmes at the SAB Foundation

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