Sir Richard Branson, builder of the Virgin brand and an icon of entrepreneurs worldwide.
Mentoring has always been a very effective way to help people grow and develop. Many different types of mentoring exist today and they are all worth taking seriously and adapting to the particular circumstances of a company or organisation. Companies use mentoring programmes to develop leaders and nurture skills in their staff, universities use mentoring to help students excel, learn and mature as human beings, entrepreneurs use mentoring as a way to transfer useful skills, knowledge and experience to new entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who are moving from one level to the next. There are other forms of mentoring including social mentoring. One thing that all these types of mentoring have in common is that the people who start these programmes and the people who take part in these programmes are all trying to shorten their learning curves and learn from people who have been there and done some of what they are now seeking to do.
A mentor is someone who guides, encourages and advises another person to allow that person to reach their full potential. The mentor does not know it all, neither is the mentor expected to give, give and give some more. In most of the cases where I have encountered mentors and mentees, the mentors have always reported that they have learnt an abundance of new things from their mentees. Without a doubt the mentees themselves have also learnt.
The Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods is presently involved in starting and growing a number of mentorship programmes regionally in partnership with various entities, ranging from corporate, social through to business and leadership.
In this instance I would like to focus on business mentoring. This powerful strategy involves an experienced volunteer entrepreneur, business leader and/or professional, assisting an entrepreneur, usually a start-up or someone moving from one level to another, in their business. This type of knowledge transfer, standing on the shoulders of the ones before, is the type of strategy which creates sustainability but also develops resilient citizens and significantly contributes to the social capital of a country and a region.
The Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (CoESL) and regional partners including the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) have worked to make sure that entrepreneurs, both young and mature, can get access to real-time information, hard knowledge and experience as well as tried and proven skill-sets which they need to develop and strengthen themselves and their businesses.
The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) Business Mentorship and Networking Pillar, led by Marcia Brandon and Sade Jemmott, through the efforts of Anton Shepherd, have engineered a Business Mentor Online Portal launched in 2012. The Portal is the first of its kind in the Caribbean and provides entrepreneurs (young and old, men and women) with the ability to get access to rapid responses to burning questions they have, to help them to make fast and prudent business decisions.
From experiences over the years, I have seen that business mentors have provided significant contributions to the growth of many businesses in Barbados and the Caribbean. Feedback from entrepreneurs has indicated that not only have their businesses expanded but they have grown personally as well. In a 2014 research conducted by the CoESL on why businesses fail in the Caribbean, almost 70% of over 50 entrepreneurs surveyed said if they had a business mentor they would have done better. Caribbean entrepreneurs have now become fully aware of the benefits of effective business mentors. If you are an experienced entrepreneur, business leader or professional consider mentoring , it is a significant way to help develop resilient people, improve the social capital and the overall economic development of the Caribbean.