Starting a business can be a long and arduous journey, especially when you do not have a co-founder. Mentors are an asset almost every successful entrepreneur has, from Mark Zuckerberg to Jeff Bezos. Seasoned author, Jim Rohn, when talking about his mentor said, My mentor said, “Let’s do it”, not “You go do it.” How powerful when someone says, “Let’s”
In a 2016 study by Sage, 93% of small and medium-sized businesses acknowledged that mentorship is integral to their success. Larry Page and Sergey Brin credit their accomplishments to the late Stanford Professor, Rajeev Motwani. Motwani was one of the co-authors of an early paper on the PageRank algorithm, of which Google is built from.
Without his advice and tutelage, the duo may not have been able to build and scale the world’s largest search engine. Even on the continent, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, with its $100 million commitment to fund 10,000 African businesses ensures to train and mentor these individuals because they see the value of mentorship to these firms’ development.
Here are 5 reasons why you need a mentor in business:
1. They have a wealth of experience to pass across
One peculiarity in African markets is the lack of data to form the basis of market research that could help you launch or scale with relative ease. As an entrepreneur, you want to have as much information as you can to finetune your business model and strategies to boost your chances of survival and hit those milestones you must have set. Mentors, especially those with domain experience in your industry, are invaluable. They bring years of experience to the table, which could help you foresee and tackle situations as and when they arise. Kola Aina, Chief Executive Officer and Founding Partner at Ventures Platform, in an interview with Techpoint, said,
"…Over the years, we got to a point where we started to mentor and advise lots of young people. And then at some point, I personally made a few angel investments. But a lot of the startups I invested in didn’t quite do very well. Apparently, there’s a combination of things that make a company successful…But once you get that part right, there are still so many other factors. Particularly in our climes because even the environment people have to operate in can be very frustrating."
You may not know that your logistics startup would require licenses from particular regulatory agencies or that states may have different tax rules that you may be guilty of defaulting on. With a mentor, he/she is able to prepare you for issues like these. The last things you want as an entrepreneur is to lose focus from your goals because of challenges that will spring up.
2. They can provide you with network opportunities
You have a great product/service, an excellent team, but a few initial customers; what may be lacking could be that mentor to connect you with a wider range of opportunities. One major reason why accelerators and incubators like Y Combinator are so popular is the networks they provide. Y Combinator, outside the $120,000 equity-based finance investment, through its 12-weeks accelerator program, brings onboard leading experts to tutor these firms. Nigeria’s Paystack and Kobo360 are two startups who have benefited greatly from this resource and have developed sustainable businesses.
3. Your business is more likely to survive with a mentor
According to the Small Business Association (SBA), 50% of businesses fail in the first five years, but in Africa, the numbers are much grimmer. Here, we have to fight against the infrastructural deficits, poor regulatory policies, low consumer purchasing power and a host of other factors that stack the cards against us. However, with a mentor, you are less likely to be one of the businesses who is forced to shut down operations after a few years. According to a survey by the UPS Store, 70% of businesses survive their first five years. In the words of the SBA, “A mentor can be a game changer for a small business”, and they are.
4. You are more likely to have increased output
As explained, with mentors, you are more likely to survive in business and have a wealth of experience and networking opportunities to lean on. Consequently, the business will show improved output, be it through the efficiency of operations or by a remarkable increase in revenue. Studies have shown that US businesses receiving mentorship increased their annual revenue by 83%, and those who didn’t increase theirs by 16%. The Mowgli Foundation, a non-profit mentoring organization for the Middle East and Africa, released an Impact Report in 2015, and it showed that 71% of the entrepreneurs it mentored felt confident in moving their businesses to the next stage and 51% increased their client list/secured more contracts. The data does not lie. Mentorship is directly linked to your business’s growth. As an entrepreneur, you do not just want your business to survive, but to thrive.
5. They help in improving your personal and professional growth
Mentors will help not just help you develop your business, but yourself, which is inextricably linked to the organization. Management is the bane of many firms in Nigeria today. Dr. Benneth Eze, an SME expert, and lecturer at Hallmark University has said, The causes of such high mortality rate are varied; some people assume that lack of capital is the major cause of business failure in Nigeria. Yes, running out of operational capital can lead to business failure. However, the major cause of business failure in Nigeria is because of the lack of business management knowledge.
Mentors are there to teach you the ropes of how to become a better manager. Since they are most likely seasoned professionals, they ensure to help you prevent making mistakes they make, from skills they needed when they started that they didn’t have or the hiring mistakes they made. Lessons like these can be learned on your own time and pace, but to prevent climbing that steep learning curve, it would be wise to reach out to that individual who could mentor you to achieve your organizational goals.
John Crosby sums up how impactful mentors could be to your business when he said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Mentors are key to your business survival and success, and it is imperative to utilize this resource as you launch or move from one stage of the business to another.