When the pandemic hit, business changed a lot, but having a Business Mentor made a world of difference for Mary Ogburn and AUIP’s Management Team.
Mary came to New Zealand from Boston five years ago to serve as the International Programs and Development Director at AUIP – American Universities International Programs Limited. AUIP is based in Christchurch and provides short-term study tours for US university groups led by their professors for which students receive credits at their home institutions.
AUIP has established a leading reputation for detailed planning and expert insights into what academic clients need. It’s no accident. Mary and the AUIP team dedicate themselves to learning how to improve their business. Mary explains that this has included making the most of local knowledge and a Business Mentor.
“We recognised we were a small business with lots of ideas and big aspirations, so we set out to find some new expertise. It didn’t take us long to discover the Business Mentors New Zealand service. Now, it’s become one of my favourite things about working in New Zealand!”
Putting in the work
When Covid-19 swept around the world, Mary's connection with Business Mentors New Zealand helped her stay grounded. She and her colleagues in AUIP’s Management Team, Kevin Arscott and Helen Beumelburg, have been using the Business Mentor’s service since 2018, choosing a different focus for their mentoring each year. Mary said this work helped ensure that AUIP met the pandemic in a strong position.
“First, a Mentor helped us with Human Resources. Having a Mentor with senior HR experience enabled us to learn more about New Zealand’s practices. With support from our Mentor, we developed solid plans for onboarding, training and reviews.
“Next, our focus was on marketing and advertising. Having a Mentor was incredibly valuable as we went through a rebrand and website build. We could sense-check our timelines, expectations, risks and use of resources. As a result, we got the website live on time! We also talked with our Mentor about social media and other marketing opportunities.
"Once we'd addressed some of the urgent areas of the business, we could consider longer-term goals, aspirations and strategy."
Most recently, Mary and her colleagues worked with Mentor Johanna van Aalst. When the pandemic meant their 2020 study abroad programmes were cancelled, the time was right to refine their vision and mission.
Johanna says that when she first got to know AUIP, she saw an opportunity to find more balance between working on strategy and facing the demands of day-to-day business.
“As a Mentor, I see my role as a sounding board,” said Johanna.
“I can provide an opportunity to ask bigger questions about diversifying, finding best value clients and so on. This helps equip people to have the right conversations with the right people and with confidence.
I’ve seen AUIP develop their process tools which helped improve decision making, accountability and sharing of information.
Mary is enthusiastic about the difference Johanna’s mentoring has made.
“We defined our vision statement and started looking at KPIs. That made our goals much more achievable.
“Our commitment to our mission and vision remains strong even in the changing tides of current events. We’ve focused on retaining clients, planning for the future, and maintaining close communication with our international partners about what’s happening locally. We’ve felt the commitment in those relationships and the desire to continue them.
“Vaccination is well underway in the US, so people are optimistic about returning to travel – and New Zealand.”
A formula for success
Johanna shares Mary's optimism for the future, and the two think others should too. Between them, they offer a few tips that have helped them.
- Make the most of the Business Mentoring service: A Mentor is on your side and wants to see you succeed even when things shift and change.
- Document what you learn from your Mentor. You’ll be pleased to be able to refer to it later.
- Look for opportunities to be externally accountable to keep you focused and get feedback.
- Understand your purpose and keep it top of mind. When you're aligned with your true purpose, then work is not a chore.
- Seek out fresh perspectives and challenges: Everyone has their own strengths, but building new ones helps strengthen your business.
If you’re curious about how a Business Mentor could open up new possibilities, then click here to find out more.