Mentorship turns small businesses into large companies
SMEs Compete has a mentorship programme that has been part and parcel of its support to owners of small enterprises since it started operations in March 2006. The project aims to accelerate the growth of small firms and to reduce the number of business failures. “The value of mentorship to entrepreneurs is widely recognized, irrespective if they are emerging, novice or already well-established in the business arena,” stated Danny Meyer Co-Founder and Director of SMEs Compete.
“In the Namibian business environment, Mentorship has proven its value as historically people of colour were precluded from conducting business. As a result conducting business was alien to many who grew-up in the high density suburbs or locations, as they were commonly referred to, of larger towns around the country and those in villages and rural areas too. [But] a mentor serves as a sounding board and as an unbiased advisor who helps the entrepreneurs grow business, but will not hesitate to caution against acts and omissions that might stifle business growth or undermine success,” he explained.
“Although SMEs Compete has systematically expanded service delivery since it commenced, we examined remedial action and it made sense that expertise that already exists in urban centres across the country be more productively deployed. The mentorship programme brings together carefully selected individuals as mentors, who are trained to fulfil the role and are usually retired or close to retirement as teachers, nurses, managers or supervisors of a local firm such as a bank, companies or larger local enterprises and or parastatals or state owner enterprises, who then meet with their mentees, who are the young entrepreneurs or small business owners,” he said.
SMEs Compete has the coordination role that includes project management and overall administration as well as components such as mentee and mentor selection and training. Additionally SMEs Compete personnel backstops the mentors when it comes to providing [advice] of an advanced nature such as business registration and compliance (taxation, social security, human resource matters, etc.), bookkeeping support and skills training for the entrepreneur and the small enterprise’s staff.
“The pilot phase which is known as the Voluntary Executive Mentorship (VEM) programme runs for two years. By then the value of VEM as an SME sector development strategy and more broadly as an economic development tool will have been demonstrated. It is hoped that government and other key stakeholders in the enterprise sector then fully embrace and fund VEM on the basis of a private – public partnership (PPP) programme,” he explained.
SMEs Compete also aims to introduce and lay a solid foundation for this smart partnership. Mentorship follows a sensible approach to harnessing and making productive use of resources already available right here in Namibia in the form of older people who have knowledge, skills and expertise to pass-on in a productive and sustainable way.
“Although it faces financial challenges, SMEs Compete has submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, acknowledgement has been received from the technocrats and we look forward to receiving an invitation to engage with the ministry in due course,” Meyer stated. “The programme is very useful and should be recognised as a much need initiative within the business community.”
“Initially VEM will operate in six smaller towns where SMEs Compete does not presently have a permanent presence, which is outside of the larger urban areas of Windhoek and Walvis Bay. Later VEM will be systematically expanded more widely across Namibia,” he concluded.