Use seasoned entrepreneurs as mentors | News | Small Business Connect

Allon Raiz

The difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failed business is an emotionally invested mentor.

So says entrepreneur Allon Raiz, chief excitement officer at business incubator Raizcorp that assists over 400 businesses in Africa. He was speaking at the Enterprise Development Expo 2014 hosted by Smart Procurement World, in partnership with Absa, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last month.

The conference, which was the first of its kind in the Western Cape, is aimed at assisting big business and government to tailor their enterprise development programmes to better develop small suppliers. Raiz was addressing attendees of the conference about what enterprise development programmes lacked and what was needed to rectify this.

“Success has nothing to do with a business plan, but with character and ability to fight and fight and fight and because of somebody’s belief in you,” says Raiz.

He based this statement on real-life case studies that both involved his own experiences.

He compares the lives of two individuals who both started off with privileged lives and the started their own businesses. The difference between the one whose business was a success and the failed business was an “emotionally invested mentor”.

He made a second comparison of where he compared the lives of two underprivileged individuals – one took over her family business after her father died and the other started a business after attending a course. The former was successful and the latter is now working in a bakery according to Raiz. The difference, he says, is once again an emotionally invested mentor.

This was something he felt was lacking in enterprise development programmes and stressed that not everyone that has a business idea is an entrepreneur, that mentors with academic experience but no actual experience in running a business were not necessarily the best-suited to coach entrepreneurs and that entrepreneurs required support in all aspects of their life as running a business is not a normal nine to five job.

“Sometimes we focus on the experience in industry and look at academic qualifications and people who have just left university and now mentor entrepreneurs who do not have that experience instead of finding someone who has actual experience in running a business in addition to having the academic qualifications,” says Raiz.

He further listed an example where 31 mentors were asked to work out net profit and only two were able to do so.

He also pointed out by signing up the right kind of people for the enterprise development programmes big business would create jobs for all those people involved in big businesses, that were not necessarily suited to run business.

Another prominent speaker at the event was Shell South Africa’s procurement manager, Annelien Herringer. With 24 years of experience in the procurement sector,

Herringer repeatedly stated that the role of procurement managers was changing and that a definite way to ensure progress was for the transformation manager and procurement manager to work together instead of on opposing sides.

“Cost reduction when procuring is becoming less of a factor. The supplier needs to deliver quality.,” says Herringer.

Communication was also unclear between big business and its suppliers and 90% of disputes arose from unclear deliverables according to Herringer.

“ The biggest supplier is also not necessarily the best supplier. Invest in your suppliers, it takes time,” Herringer told her fellow counterparts.

She said that Shell looked at the supplier’s ethics and basic business acumen skills as the supplier’s credibility would be a reflection on the big business.

Other big businesses present at the event included Pioneer Foods, Transnet and various government departments.

The Johannesburg leg of the expo will be held in September 2014 at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.