In his role as a business mentor at The Hope Factory, Sean Krige often promotes mentorship by saying that it helps business owners to work ON, rather than IN, their businesses. This statement is almost always unanimously met with a nodding of heads and grunts of approval by those in earshot, at least at face value… However, in Krige’s experience the problem arises (as is the case in most things), when the rubber actually hits the road. He explains by way of example, in this month’s SmartProcurement.
One of my current entrepreneurs, let’s call him Uzi for now, owns a small but relatively profitable stationary supply business. Uzi is a family man, hailing from a tight-knit community where running a business is about as common-place as owning a dog, but where growing that business beyond the owner’s personal ability and capacity is less common-place.
Despite Uzi’s five-year plan to spend more time with his wife and grandkids while the business operates independently of him as owner-manager, it was apparent to me when we met that if something in Uzi’s business needs to be done correctly then it is he who needs to do it – Uzi spells the word delegation as s-u-i-c-i-d-e.
However, the fact that Uzi welcomed the input of a business mentor and did not have a know-it-all attitude gave me hope that his five-year strategy was attainable.
You can then imagine my surprise when only three months into our relationship Uzi explained to me that he would have to step down from The Hope Factory’s Entrepreneur Support Programme, owing to his inability to honour his commitment to our mandatory mentorship sessions of two per month.
Two sessions are mandatory because interacting with a business owner only once a month is ineffective when changed behaviours and business practices are required.
Appeals to him that two 90-minute sessions constitute only 2% of his monthly work hours did not do the trick. But, the reassurance that someone out there’s got his back, and the healthy discomfort of having to answer questions no one else would care (or dare) to ask, changed his mind.
Fortunately it didn’t take long for Uzi’s decision to be confirmed: after attending one of our HR workshops (about two weeks later) he informed me that his business would never be the same again: you see, in Uzi’s business, no one had a job description, because what’s the point if you as the business owner are always there to tell your staff what to do, right? Wrong if you want your exit strategy to become a reality!
Needless to say, Uzi and all his staff now each have a detailed and up-to-date job description. I couldn’t help but smile as he shook my hand and walked away after that HR workshop, as I had just witnessed first-hand, the power of ownership perception, but more than that, the benefits of mentorship and changed perceptions! He has begun to start working on his business instead of just working in his business.
I look forward to sharing in the next edition, the single event that turned Uzi’s business around, and has the potential to do so for many SMMEs in South Africa today: Buying Power!