The Mentoring Process - Small Steps, Big Gains

Nov 25, 2019 11:28:55 AM

The hardest part of getting a Business Mentor via the Business Mentors New Zealand (BMNZ) service is making the decision you need support to make yourself better at being in business. One of the biggest mistakes anyone trying to establish or grow a business can make is thinking they have all the skills and knowledge required.

Our not-for-profit organisation is approaching thirty years of helping small business New Zealand, almost 80,000 business people have worked alongside one of our Mentors to improve themselves as a business person by gaining insights from someone else’s experience. Mentors are experienced business people and differ from business consultants or coaches. While a consultant is very task-oriented, i.e. "Give me a social media marketing strategy", a Mentor might ask “Why do you want a Social Media Marketing Strategy? Let's discuss your financial position and talk about cash flow”.

This example above, of course, is an oversimplification, the reality is that every single person who applies to our service is different and with different needs in their ever-evolving business environment. What they get from working with a Mentor is up to them. A vast majority of feedback we receive is not “you helped my business”, by majority we are told “my Mentor changed my life” - powerful stuff. 

For this article, we are looking at some of the critical stages in the mentoring process; these include:

  1. Deciding to get a Business Mentor.
  2. Making an application to the BMNZ service.
  3. How much time do you and the Mentor invest in the relationship?

Deciding to get a Business Mentor

Research undertaken by Business Mentors New Zealand confirms one of the most significant challenges faced by a business owner, whether at the formative stages or in growth, is isolation. It's human nature to spend time and energy on the things that motivate us, so other parts of the business may suffer. This may be financial management, marketing, customer engagement, product development or any one of the myriads of tasks required to ensure a business can be sustainable. 

For some, asking an outsider for help feels like failure or weakness. We turn to our friends and family for advice but often they are too emotionally or financially invested to be able to give honest and impartial advice. As a business owner seeking a Mentor you don’t have to have all the answers, that’s the very point of getting a Mentor. Deciding to get help is a positive and progressive step toward being a successful businessperson.

Making the application to the BMNZ service

Our service has 14 agencies nationally who follow a best practice mentoring model coordinated by a small team based in Auckland. Business Mentors are vetted and selected based on their skills and, importantly, motivation to help others succeed. It is important to understand that mentors gift their time.  

To apply you fill out a small application form here, which gives the Mentor Coordinator in your local region some insights into your business model, i.e. formation, existing SME or Social Enterprise. You must be the business owner, or in the case of a not-for-profit, the Executive Officer. Mentors are there to support the person, not the business.

Once the application is completed, the local Mentor Coordinator will contact you for a brief discussion. This will further help them gain a better idea of what Mentor would best suit you. Once the match is made, which can take a few weeks from the application date, you will be working directly with the assigned Mentor. The Mentor Coordinator is always available should any issues or concerns arise from the engagement. 

How much time do you and the Mentor invest in the relationship?

The registration fee of $295+gst, a small contribution to the heavily subsidised service, gives you up to 12-months access to the Mentor's support. This may vary depending on what you are trying to achieve. It is important at the beginning of the engagement to determine what you are dealing with and set some goals. When you feel you have reached the agreed outcomes, the match can be closed and you are then able to reapply for a new Mentor with the next task and goals ahead. Initially you may meet twice a month for about an hour, after a few months it is usual that this may become a monthly catch up and then toward the end of the relationship, occasional phone calls to discuss progress and achievements. 

As an organisation, our goal is to match you with the best Mentor possible. The calibre and quality of our Mentors is outstanding, and those who engage with them leap hurdles that may have previously been emotional or financial barriers to growth. By making you more successful, we, in turn, contribute toward a more productive business that is good for the owner, our communities and our economy.