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Updated 24 Sep 2020

The real role of your (business) mentor

Ask any successful business person, and they will all admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point. Many people have achieved great things because someone else believed in them and helped them along the way. 

Mimi Rupp, 19 February 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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Any entrepreneur can benefit from having mentor. The knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares depends on the format and goals of the mentoring relationship. A mentor may share with a mentee information about their own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling.

A mentor may help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources. And as time goes on, your mentor’s role may change with your needs. 

Related: Mentorship – you can’t wing it

Some mentoring relationships are part of structured programs with specific expectations and guidelines while others are more informal. But, formal or informal, the concept of mentoring is simple, however successful implementation can be challenging.

The key characteristics of an effective mentoring relationship includes the ability and willingness to: 

  • Value the mentee as a person
  • Develop mutual trust and respect
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Listen both to what is being said and how it is being said
  • Help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than simply give direction
  • Focus on the mentee's development and resist the urge to produce a clone. 

Finding your guide 

The first step to find a good mentor is coming to terms with the knowledge that you can benefit from having one. Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and pride involved, but speaking from experience, going it alone is admirable yet an arguably flawed approach to taking on the world.

Related: Mentoring: How to be prepared

Steve Jobs had former Intel manager Mike Markkula. At Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin brought in Eric Schmidt (formerly of Sun Microsystems and Novell) who was appointed CEO when they realised the company’s explosive growth was exceeding their ability to manage it. 

So, no matter how incredibly brilliant you think you are, every start-up needs at least one good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you’re about to embark on.

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About the author

Mimi Rupp

Highly active in the local community as well as within business, Mimi is recognised as one of South Africa and Port Elizabeth’s most well-known female entrepreneurs. Recently named CEO Magazine’s Most Influential Woman in Business in South Africa, and she is using her experience to empower young entrepreneurs through her work and role at the Business Women’s Association and the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.

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