Entrepreneurs can become so immersed in their businesses that they no longer ‘see the wood from the trees’, and that the way in which they are currently operating their business, could be the downfall of their success.
This is according to Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who says that all entrepreneurs, regardless of their business cycle or success, can benefit from an outsider reviewing their business and its processes.
“A business mentor is one of the most valuable resources for any entrepreneur and business owner, yet is often the most underutilised,” says Engelbrecht.
A study conducted in the United States – which surveyed small business owners on the importance of mentoring – showed that of the business owners who use a mentor, 88% find their service invaluable. Furthermore, 70% of small businesses that make use of a business mentor, survive more than five years, which is double the rate of those that don’t use a business mentor.
In South Africa – where the rate of new businesses closing within five years of operation remains high – entrepreneurs should actively be seeking the advice of business mentors, says Engelbrecht.
“An external business professional, coach or mentor takes an outsider’s look into a business and critically reviews all elements of the business, and analyses where improvements can be made to maximise success. This process forces an entrepreneur to be honest about their business idea/concept and its current success, as too often, entrepreneurs become too involved in their business and lose perspective.”
Apart from using the services of a mentor – which can come at a fee depending on the agreement – there are other free avenues to explore that can force an entrepreneur to sit back and reflect on the current success of their business and its processes.
“A business competition is one platform to explore,” says Engelbrecht, “as often the judging panels include well-respected, established business professionals, who on a daily basis, engage with local businesses and the environment within which they operate.” He points to the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition as an example of what entrepreneurs can expect to take away when entering such a platform.
“During the judging process for the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the judges look at every aspect of the business – from its business strategy, manufacturing processes, marketing and sales plans, to its financial statements – to obtain a holistic view of how the business is running.
“The judges pose questions to the finalist entrepreneurs about their business. The line of questioning often prompts the entrepreneur to critically look at certain aspects of their business, and rethink certain processes within their business.”
2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® and MD of Agricon, Johan Eksteen, who also won the 2014 Small Business of the Year® category, explains that the feedback obtained during the judging process in 2014 enabled him to strengthen aspects within his business that he had overlooked, which ultimately aided him in strengthening his business, and clinching the overall title in 2016.
From his experience, Eksteen says the criteria for the judges was to decipher how entrepreneurial the business owner is in terms of how unique the product or service was, as well as the business model. “It’s important to see how my business is distinguished from the other businesses that entered. Being able to test my business against other entrepreneurs in South Africa was a great learning curve for me.”
Engelbrecht stresses that although entrepreneurial competitions are a good way for business owners to start the review process, accessing the services of a mentor is strongly advisable to conduct a regular, in-depth review of their business’ overall strategy. “Not only will a mentor guarantee that no stone is left unturned in the business, thereby eliminating oversight in potentially important areas, but a mentor will also hold the entrepreneur accountable for the business’ goals – both short and long-term – thereby ensuring the business continues to thrive and grow, ” concludes Engelbrecht.