The benefits of mentorship are well-known, but at the same time, small businesses often cannot afford professional advisory services, don’t have the time for strategic networking and struggle to manage every aspect of the business by themselves.
Running a small business can be lonely and demanding on the owner’s time, personal relationships and ability to see beyond the urgent details. Last year these challenges were even greater than normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic and 2020 was a year when a good mentor could make the difference between pivoting successfully and having to cut back drastically or even closing down.
It was under these conditions that Standard Bank tested a mentorship programme with some of its small business clients. Standard Bank sponsored twenty clients to go on an intensive 12-month mentorship journey starting in August 2020 and partnered with the National Mentorship Movement (the “NMM”) who provided the programme content and management.
By all accounts the 2020 mentorship programme has been very successful and has made a positive difference in the personal and professional lives of the participating entrepreneurs. Below are some comments of clients who were mentees:
- “This program has helped me immensely and I would like as many entrepreneurs as possible to be exposed to this program and hopefully they too will gain value”.
- “It’s like therapy, it offers one the opportunity to touch base with oneself and introspect from somebody else’s perspective”.
- “… has been an excellent mentor, … also asks the right question that enables me to interrogate my direction…”
But not only mentees benefit from a mentorship relationship. Besides the reward of helping a smaller, younger business and contributing toward transforming our economy and society, mentors often rediscover in themselves the passion, energy, creativity and resourcefulness they find in mentees.
Following the positive feedback from both the mentees and mentors, Standard Bank is presently investigating how mentorship could be made more widely available to clients both as mentees and mentors. “Given that mentorship is a highly personalized, developmental relationship, it can be difficult to facilitate affordably and at scale,” said Jenine Zachar, the head of Enterprise and Direct Banking. “However, with the right partners and drawing on the tremendous possibilities presented by digital platforms, we believe that good mentorship could become accessible to our small enterprise clients,” she concluded.