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Where can I find a business mentor?

Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs


If you feel you need the services of a mentor, it's important to find one with a good reputation and the appropriate experience in your industry or problem area. So where do you start looking?

There are various ways to go about finding a business mentor. It all depends on your specific needs, how much you are prepared to spend and how much help you think you need.

At a very basic level, you may be referred to someone by a trusted colleague or fellow business owner who has used the services of a particular person. You may consider approaching someone you know is running a successful business and will be prepared to spend some time with you.

It could be someone you have worked with in the past with a good reputation in a certain field (such as strategic planning or cash flow management). Alternatively, it could be "safer" to find someone who is affiliated to an organisation that can vouch for his or her credibility and abilities.

If you are unable to pay someone for their services, there are a number of organisations and private companies who offer free mentoring. The fact that their services are free doesn't mean they're any less qualified. Some professionals become mentors to give back to their communities or to gain experience as a trainer or consultant.

Organisations that offer mentoring

Whether you need a mentor or think you'd like to be one, various professional associations and government organisations offer mentoring programmes. A few of the organisations offering mentorship services - some for free and others at a fee - include:

  • Business Partners Mentorship Programme: Business Partners, South Africa's leading specialist investment company for entrepreneurs has a database of carefully selected individuals who have proved themselves successful in their businesses and careers, to provide a service of high standard and quality. All mentors subscribe to a code of ethics that will ensure that the principles of integrity, good faith, confidentiality, impartiality, incorruptibility, accountability and professional conduct are adhered to
  • Investec's The Business Place is a "one-stop shop" for emerging and existing entrepreneurs, with a cluster of relevant, affordable service providers. It's a business advice centre that advises entrepreneurs on how to proceed or refers them to a service provider

Many provincial government departments provide mentorship programmes in various industries, usually in conjunction with private companies. It's worth doing some research into your local government departments. There will be others, depending on what you are looking for, so ask around.

If you are new to the small business environment, you will have a lot to learn, so you may be able to start with one mentor and "graduate" to someone with even more experience. This way, the person who agrees to mentor you in the beginning is not committed to a long-term relationship. Also, if you are not comfortable with one person, don't hesitate to look at find someone else.

Mentorship is all about learning, for you and your mentor. And it takes an open mind on both sides to ensure a fruitful experience.

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