Value of mentoring Māori in business is increasing

Sep 17, 2021 3:33:02 PM

This blog has been written for Business Mentors New Zealand by Amokura Panoho. Amokura is a Māori business leader and facilitator of our Māori Business World View Workshops. 

Business Mentors New Zealand recognises the importance of better understanding and contributing to the Māori economy. It’s recently explained why this is so critical and nuanced for Mentors.

Māori entrepreneurs with a strong allegiance to maintaining their cultural identity and values have been a consistently critical part of the ongoing growth and development of the Māori economy.

They are influencing the makeup of the 15,600 or so Māori small to medium-sized enterprises. They manage over NZ$39 billion in assets, the largest part of the Māori economy.

For Mentors, it is important to understand that the contribution from Māori enterprises goes far beyond Te Tiriti settlements. Settlements account for just $2.2b in cash and assets transferred from the Crown to Iwi over the past 25 years.

The Māori asset base is diversifying away from their traditional ‘three Fs’ of farming, fishing and forestry. BERL has found 66% of the Māori economy is spread across real estate, manufacturing, transportation, construction and service industries such as hospitality, tourism, along with health and welfare services.

This has influenced bankers, investors and suppliers in how they market their services to Māori enterprises. They’re even looking to their own capability and representation to modify their practices and offerings.

However, like in many businesses, there are still impediments to growth, namely the ability to access capital or the ability to leverage existing assets. Such assets are not just multiply-owned land, but cultural assets as well. Here, the integration of Māori and Western capabilities can create value.

Dr Jason Mika, Te Ara Rangahau, Massey University identified three key elements that consistently matter to Māori entrepreneurs.

  • Cultural competency: building knowledge of the Māori language, culture and history and the ability to use it
  • Relational competency: investing time to forming relationships with Māori entrepreneurs
  • Technical competency: delivering on promises

Dr Mika has focussed most of his research on identifying the characteristics that make up Māori entrepreneurship and Māori economy. He has contributed, with others, to the NZ Productivity Commission enquiry into frontier firms. Their submission recommended the need for capacity-building, investment, research, and incentives to provide a better eco-system for Māori-centred business education.

However, there is still limited awareness and as a result undervaluing of Māori economic potential.

The creation of the online workshops by Business Mentors New Zealand supports their Business Mentor network in this discussion.

The workshops are now available to 2000 Business Mentors across Aotearoa. Feedback received has been

“This was a great workshop that provided a good space for discussion. Amokura is a great facilitator who both followed the flow of the discussion and kept coming back to the topic. It is a reminder that we need to take time to understand the client and give them agency, whatever their cultural context.”

As the facilitator of these discussions, I am often asked about the critical aspects that enable mentors to be seen to be of value to Māori entrepreneurs, if they themselves are not Māori.

Dr Mika’s three elements are a good measure, but the first one is the most important; without it the other two won’t occur:

Recognition of language, local hapū and iwi knowledge and understanding equates to building cultural competency

Things to consider:

  • What treaty settlements have occurred in your region?
  • Who are the tribal leaders and what is their priority focus area for development?
  • What is the local tribal history and where is the marae in your region?
  • What is happening in your region for key cultural events such as Matariki and Te Wiki o Te Reo?

My advice to Business Mentors is to do your homework and demonstrate willingness to increase understanding and knowledge. As a result, Mentors will build trust and help increase the confidence of the Māori business person to engage and interact with your guidance.

Carla Houkamau wrote “The role of culture and identity for economic values: a quantitative study of Māori attitudes” in 2019.

Her research showed that strong traditional Māori allegiances and traditional Māori values override the desire for personal pecuniary benefit.

Mika et al reinforced that message in their submission to the Productivity Commission referencing the work done by Jarrod Haar in 2020 for the NZ Work Research Institute that reported on the Performance of Māori Firms.

His report reiterated that Māori entities and firms often integrate Māori values and principles into their strategies, governance, management, and operations This presents both challenges and opportunities for them. How these businesses position themselves to react and cope with internal and external pressures will play an important role in their overall performance and where business mentors can have an impact.

Businesses are now able to identify as a Māori on the NZBN Register. This enables a better understanding of the role Māori businesses play in the Aotearoa economy. We have also seen the successful establishment of Amotai as Aotearoa's supplier diversity intermediary tasked with connecting Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses with buyers wanting to purchase goods, services and works.

The following whakatauki is an apt way to sum up this kōrero;

Nau te rourou                                 With your contribution
Naku te rourou                               And my contribution
Ka ora ai te iwi                                The people will prosper

If you’d like to learn more about getting or becoming a Business Mentor
contact Business Mentors New Zealand today.