Endeavor White Paper 2013: The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

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NETWORKING AND MENTORSHIP Entrepreneurs in the developing world face a fast-moving and competitive busi- ness environment. The speed of tech- nological change, accelerated product cycles, global competition and sophisti- cated financing strategies often demand resources and experience beyond the reach of SMMEs. This is where mentors and networks can play an invaluable role in having an enormous impact. In South Africa we face the additional challenge of changing the culture head on. We need to build not only a network of highly influential people but leaders who are committed to developing entre- preneurs at every level. In the most usual sense of the word, networking refers to the acquaintances and associates you have access to and remain in contact with through regular communication for mutual benefit. For many it answers the question, "How can I help?" rather than "What can I get?" Mentorship, on the other hand, is a rela- tionship in which personal development is the primary driver and usually involves a more experienced or more knowledge- able person helping to guide a less expe- rienced or less knowledgeable person. It is important to remember however that true mentoring is more than the odd chat over coffee. It involves an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and challenge. It is through these networks mentors that entrepreneurs can be given the nec- essary tools, connections and resources to scale their businesses. This includes personal consultations, mentoring, edu- cational programmes and workshops and summits that empower entrepreneurs to transform ideas into businesses and to take existing businesses to the next level. Why is networking and mentorship so important for entrepreneurs? The main reason is that most entrepreneurs are single-minded people and can sometimes find themselves becoming caught up in their own ideas. Sharing their ideas, challenges and frustrations allows them to explore a world of possibilities that may otherwise not have come to light. A formal relationship with a mentor takes this even further. Mentors help en- trepreneurs to broaden their focus, while providing the kind of advice that allows them to move ahead. The challenge for most entrepreneurs is to understand how to access multiple networks, such as financing and business opportunities, and then to engage to the mutual benefit of all parties concerned. The panel agreed that it is vital to articu- late exactly what it is that one wishes to achieve with a network or a mentor at the outset; and then to work towards building a solid relationship of trust. 16 n NETWORKING m MENTORSHIP & Successful networking is having boundaries, trust, respect, asking questions up- front and knowing what you want from the session and having the dialogue early on. Catherine Townshend "

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