A Right Mentor: The Surest Way to Business Success

The concept of a mentor, the right mentor is not a new one. In many African and Nigerian cultures, it is as old and as trusted as time, especially in the development of young men who are expected to go on to become leaders in society.

Yet for all its obvious advantages, mentoring is still relatively unknown in entrepreneurship development, featuring as a side hobby for a handful of interested successful and established entrepreneurs wanting to ‘give back’.

Geographically, it is largely alien in the South West of Nigeria yet very common in Northern Nigeria and in the South East. It is in fact the basis of the strong network between families in many parts of the North, and Igbos have created several generations of very successful entrepreneurs through a well documented mentorship/apprenticeship practice.

In most cases however, right mentor 2it must be noted that mentorship (apprenticeship) grew out of (relative) poverty where young children were sent to more affluent members of the family or community to “grow up” and learn. There were of course many setbacks where the young people placed in the care of these mentors were physically and psychologically abused.

Many of the young people simply ended up as child labourers and even minders to the children of their guardians.

But, there is certainly enough evidence to show that on a general level, mentorship has worked extremely well in the afore mentioned parts of Nigeria.

A school of thought in fact suggests that by the age of 12, every young boy should be handed over to the right mentor (not his father!) for his development and transformation to adulthood.

The distinction between apprenticeship and mentorship must be made for the purpose of this article.

To keep things simple, mentorship here refers to a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The right mentor may be older or younger, but must have an identified and even proven field of expertise.

Mentorship is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. It is a relationship between a less experienced entrepreneur or a start up, and an established businessman or business manager willing to share his knowledge and experience.

The key however is this – someone who WANTS to learn. This is a relationship devoid of cohesion. As the inexperienced entrepreneur, you must decide on what values you want to develop and carefully seek out the right mentor for yourself.

I make bold to say, the involvement of an appropriate and committed mentor is more than a 50% guarantee to business success. This is worth repeating: if you find the right mentor who is committed to your development, and you are willing to learn, you are more than half way to business and therefore financial success.

Do not underestimate the effect of the right mentor in your business life. Nobody knows it all. Nobody can.



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