According to Bloomberg, eight (8) out of ten (10) small businesses fail within the first eighteen (18) months of operation. As surprising as this may seem, the figures may even rise in the next decade as millennials keep launching ideas and businesses. Working with over 200 Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises in an emerging economy, Challenges Ghana – through its business support services programme, International Citizen Service – has noticed that a clear trend which inhibits business growth is Leadership and Management – as opposed to lack of capital. Deficiencies in leadership and management rank highest as the most frequent reasons for businesses to fail. A business that is well managed prospers; one that is not, fails.
To address the challenges Ghanaian businesses face – one that often leads single-handedly to their failure – one has to questions as to whether there is a role for mentors to play? A business mentor is an individual who has been successful in a particular sector, organization or network, understands strategic and operational pressures, and its well positioned to provide you with the necessary direction, and introductions to help you succeed. “They are not magicians, and they won’t always give you the answers, but point you to the right decision” says Simon Turner, Country Director of Challenges Ghana, a local social enterprise that provides business growth services to SMEs, “thus the concept of being successful overnight because of a mentor is a fallacy”. Mentors provide expert guidance and direction – as an entrepreneur you still have the responsibility of building on that advice to make decisions towards your ultimate goal.
In a highly competitive world, a lot is expected from businesses and its leaders; to be more dynamic and still comply with legal requirements in all aspects of daily business operations. To survive, businesses constantly need to adapt and evolve their processes to match ever-changing demands. Entrepreneurs, after commencing operations, get lost in these processes and gradually fail – the ultimate reason why you need direction from a mentor.
So what can a mentor offer for your business?
Well firstly, they offer fresh operational and strategic perspectives. A business leader needs to focus on running the business and the detailed tasks involved in doing so, and that can make it difficult to step outside of it all and look at things objectively.
Mentors guide business leaders through difficult decision-making processes by offering the experience and technical expertise to ensure that decision-making is approached methodically, and taking into account the key factors and analyzing the key information, to ensure a strong decision is made. At Challenges Ghana, although we offer Leadership and Management training and accreditation for entrepreneurs which covers information-based decision making, support from mentors to entrepreneurs during critical decision-making processes have proved to be very essential.
Mentors are inspiring! It is worth saying more about the experience of mentors. A good mentor may have decades of multi-national, industry experience, which mean they have seen before the challenges a business faces and understand the difficulties these create. They will likely have a range of possible solutions to consider, depending on the circumstances, as well as perspectives on what has worked, and what hasn’t. This knowledge and guidance can save businesses a lot of heartache along their journeys, and further, save or earn a few Cedis for the business too!
The large network of mentors is what makes them ideal. This is my favorite reason at which I recommend SMEs to get mentors. In a growing economy like Ghana and increasing competition, being introduced to the right persons is very key to the success of every business. Mentors make connections and open doors. Great mentors will connect you with the right people to help you flourish, including investors and customers.
Over the last couple of years, I have worked with a number of mentors as part of my role with Challenges Ghana and have seen the value they can offer to help businesses grow and thrive. I’ve seen mentors help businesses through their growth process as well as offering proper management advice to enterprises. Some of the mentors have been more than willing to talk equally about their failures as well as successes, built and rebuilt multi-national organizations, crossed oceans to try out new techniques in business, all resulting in a wealth of experience leading to success.
The chance to run a business is an exciting, challenging, and often daunting opportunity. So, let’s ask again: why is a mentor important for your business? Because they could help you find the key to making a success of the unique opportunity you have to develop a thriving and sustainable business. I’d be more than happy to share more of my personal experiences with mentors, and indeed what Challenges Ghana can offer to individuals and businesses who are keen to develop through mentorship.