NZ Business Magazine – March 2011
“Business mentor Debra Chantry talks to Ray Schofield about her love for helping businesses and some of the common issues faced by her clients.”
I had been aware of Business Mentors New Zealand for quite some time, having read about them and seen the TV ads. I always though that it was something that I should do. When the company I worked for started getting involved with Business Mentors, I decided it was about time I stopped thinking about it and started taking some action. I love New Zealand and am passionate about helping companies grow. I’m hoping that through this role I can make it easier for business owners to succeed and continue taking our country forward.
These are the words of new business mentor, Debra Chantry, who heads up the Marketing and Online / Interactive reams at TOWER Insurance and, among many other positions is a member of the Institute of Directors and an advisory board member at Generator.
Debra became a mentor around nine months ago and has mainly been assisting business owners who want to move from being sole operators into the next growth phase, which includes strategising for growth and employing new staff. Her broad professional background, which includes roles in large corporate organisations as well as running her own business, means she is a valuable asset to any up and coming entrepreneur.
Even though she is a fairly recent addition to the Business Mentors team, Debra is already enjoying getting stuck into her mentoring role.
“I have loved the experience so far,” says Debra. “It has been an absolute joy. I have had three clients and I’m still assisting two of them. We work very closely and meet once or twice per month. Both of them have grown substantially and business thinking has been revitalised which is wonderful to see. It feels good to be doing something positive for New Zealand.”
Debra has noticed some common issues among the small businesses that she has mentored. She explains that a lot of the business owners are passionate about their companies and what they do but are simply missing certain vital skill sets.
“Some have only very basic accounting skills and are unsure of which systems and processes to have in place,” says Debra. “Others want to grow but don’t know how and many are lacking direction. In those cases we help them develop a strategy or a roadmap to help them achieve their objectives.”
“Our first meeting is when all of this is established,” adds Debra. “We take the time to get to know the clients and to ascertain what they want out of business mentoring and why. It’s not always about growth so it’s important to understand the business owner, their motivation and goals. Then you can start identifying gaps and helping them get to where they want to be.”
What it takes
According to Debra, mentoring is ideal for experienced business people who enjoying helping others and who get satisfaction out of assisting small businesses to grow.
However, there are particular personalities that are better suited to mentoring than others.
“To be an effective mentor, you need to have excellent listening skills and be able to understand and empathise with the client,” explains Debra. “You should also remember that it isn’t the mentors job to do everything, you must encourage people to think for themselves. The mentor won’t be there forever so the business owner must be able to carry on the good work long after the partnership has ended. Mentoring is an encouraging role. We encourage people into action.”
Business Mentors New Zealand has more than 1700 very knowledgeable mentors, all of whom are willing to share their skills, expertise and experience with small and medium sized business owners.
Business Mentors New Zealand is funded largely by patrons from the private sector, with additional support from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. It provides a mentoring service to businesses that have been operating for at least six months and is the owner’s main source of income.