I started my real working life as an apprentice Sparky and have never stopped trying to find out how things really work. My formal study culminated by earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2011 from The University of Auckland and was a stepping stone to getting more involved in the details and management side of the business. As a business person, I have had rental properties, worked as a consultant Project Manager, and have been a business Mentor since 2015.
From your experience, why would you recommend ‘mentoring’ to a business?
Running a business is one of many complex activities that people engage in, another is sports for example. In each, it should be self-evident that there are things that we don’t know, can’t do yet, and haven’t got time for. Keen golfers and other sports people don’t take much encouragement to invest in a coach to improve their score and bragging rights; they see it as a necessity. But it seems that there is considerable reluctance with business people to invest in a coach to improve their business game. Everyone has blind spots, gaps in their knowledge, and skills they haven’t yet mastered. Just like a sports coach, a mentor can help business people to achieve their and their business’s full potential. Just like a sports coach, a mentor can help business people to achieve their and their business’s full potential.
What do you see as the key attributes in being an effective mentor?
To be effective, a Mentor must have an accurate awareness of what they can and cannot provide clients. Mentoring is all about helping the client succeed, and if this means that the Mentor needs to seek help, or needs to be replaced, then the Mentor should initiate this. Effective Mentors also need to be aware of what the Client is revealing and what is being left out, they need to be able to read between the lines. Ultimately, mentors need to provide valid and actionable advice, even if it is not what Clients want to hear.
What’s some of the more important or even practical benefits a business or business owner can gain from being mentored?
It has become a cliché to say that business owners or senior managers are isolated - “it’s lonely at the top.” For the business owner there is likely no one in the organisation at their level that they can talk to and for the senior manager there are political risks to admit that you’re not a savant. The benefit of a mentor is having access to an independent confidant who is dedicated to your success. Simply having someone to talk to in a non-threatening relationship can help to clarify and crystallise one’s ideas.
What’s the most satisfying feature for you about being a mentor?
The most satisfying aspect of being a mentor is seeing clients make progress and succeed. But for me success is a little nuanced. Success can be defined as business growth and bottom-line growth, but for me, success is also giving it a go but then abandoning an ultimately futile business idea before losing all of one’s life savings and more.
How much of ‘business mentoring’ is also about developing and guiding the personal qualities of the person being mentored?
Mentoring is also about helping to make clients self-sufficient, it is not about the mentor embedding himself permanently within an organisation. To achieve self-sufficiency, the mentor needs to encourage and guide the self-development of the client. The client also needs to be willing and able to grow. One of the first things to learn is that no one can know and do everything. This means, that regardless of the ability of the Client to learn and grow, they still only have 24-hours available to them per day. At some point they’re going to have to recognise their need to buy help to first survive, to grow, and then to reach their business’s full potential.
From your time as a mentor what’s a scenario/area where you’ve felt you’ve really been able to make a difference?
Starting a business is risky, but it need not be a gamble. I’d like to be able to recall that all my clients were overnight successes, of the Bill Gates variety, but that’s not how it happened or happens. I’ve two clients successfully start their respective businesses, and that was because they had a compelling solution (product, service, and experience bundle), the skills, the resources, timing, and the tenacity to work through the challenges. They look like they’ll be successful in the conventional sense. On the other hand, I have been instrumental in getting other Clients to pause their spending, and take a more structured business development approach. They too will be successful from reflecting on their experiences and lessons and this will position them well for their next attempt at starting a business.