Michele shares a few tips on how a business mentor could help your business, and what he’s gained from his mentoring experience.
Michele Corso is Fonterra’s acting Chief Internal Auditor and a pro-bono business mentor. His mentoring journey began when he was looking for a way to give back by sharing what he had learnt from working in large organisations in Europe and NZ.
All successful businesses, large or small, understand the importance of knowing who their customer is and how they’re helping them. As a mentor, I’ve found that one of the best ways to help a small business owner to understand this, and then ensuring the right match between their business model and operating model, is to ask them whether they consider their business to be a vitamin, an aspirin or a vaccine.
Your business is a vitamin when your product/service helps the customer but does not resolve an immediate pain. Your product may offer a boost or a temporary feel-good effect, but requires continuous efforts to sell so that customers keep coming back.
Your business is an aspirin if it can help your customer take away an immediate pain.
It is a vaccine when your product/solution requires an investment today to address a big customer problem that may happen in the future.
Whether you choose to be a vitamin, aspirin or a vaccine is up to you. However, being hyper-clear on what problem you are solving and how you want to solve it is imperative to maximise the odds of success.
My experience tells me that most business may benefit from operating in the aspirin space.
Business owners are typically very passionate about their business idea and what they want their business to look like. This passion is great and certainly, you need it to navigate the ups and down of a business. However, sometimes being so focused on one vision can mean you miss other opportunities along the way.
For example, adopting concepts from the lean start-up methodology or exponential organisations can help promote both a customer centric organisation and build scalable operations.
Making a step change often requires a change in our mindset. That for instance that before 1954 it was considered impossible for a human to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. After Roger Bannister proved this to in fact be possible, thousands more runners around the world, including teenagers, have smashed this time.
Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective. Business mentors do just that. They can help open up the realm of possibility.
Thinking that you need to have direct business experience to be a mentor is often a hard block for people interested in becoming a mentor. This is not the case. In my experience, if you have a genuine interest and understanding of how businesses work, you are a good listener and have practiced coaching, you are certainly a good candidate to be a mentor. What is really needed is to be able to listen and offer a fresh perspective to business owners who often feel isolated. Even one idea, when acted, can make a huge difference.
Another myth is that mentoring takes lots of time. Effective mentoring can be achieved with just a couple of hours a month.
Mentoring can be a very enriching experience. Paying it forward and becoming a mentor myself has been a rewarding experience. I personally enjoy getting out of my day to day problems and immersing myself in business, seeing it from all facets. And remember the more you give, the more you get back.
We never ask why professional athletes have coaches. I believe we all need mentors, and I have many. They help us think differently, make the unfamiliar familiar, and act on those ideas and make those dreams come true.
I encourage everyone to give mentoring a go. Sometimes, all it takes is a conversation over a coffee!
Michele started as a pro-bono business mentor a couple of years ago when he was recommended to apply for the business mentoring programme offered by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce (Business Mentors New Zealand). The programme offers training and support to ensure small businesses receive the best experience out of their relationship with (volunteer) mentors.
Since completing the training he has mentored four entrepreneurs – all of them with very different businesses, ranging from massage services for dogs to fashion to recruitment.
Check out www.businessmentors.org.nz if you’re interested in signing up.