Do you remember that one teacher or guide who made a positive and lasting impact on your life? If you have ever provided support or advice based on your own life experiences, you have been a mentor to someone. And everyone needs a mentor. Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great; Martin Scorsese inspired Oliver Stone. And six-time Olympic cycle champion, Sir Chris Hoy, recently signed up to mentor the next generation of British cyclists.
"Mentoring" might not be a glossy word but it is a word and a movement which is growing in prominence and significance - especially in business circles. Even the UK's National Health Service (NHS) has signed up its executives to a Dragon's Den-style mentoring scheme.
Mentoring is also an essential component of the service-offering provided to entrepreneurs by Youth Business International (YBI) and our global members. It is an invaluable and cost-effective way that knowledgeable and experienced professionals can volunteer their time to harness and nurture business potential. This, in turn, can have long-lasting and positive impacts on start-up businesses, economies and communities in the developed and developing world.
Time is an invaluable part of any mentor's toolkit. However, a real desire to contribute towards supporting, guiding, encouraging and inspiring up-and-coming entrepreneurs is crucial. Apart from business advice, mentors act as sounding boards for entrepreneurs, also providing emotional support.
It is also immensely rewarding to mentor entrepreneurs operating in areas about which you are passionate. Mentor Mohan Singh's heart lies with creating grassroots entrepreneurship in the hinterland of India's state of Haryana. Committed to the motto of "knowledge grows by sharing", Mohan has mentored more than 50 entrepreneurs over almost 20 years through the Mentoring Programme of YBI's Indian member, Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), which he has also spearheaded.
For Mohan (who is Director of a hydraulics manufacturing business), serving the rural entrepreneur community can hopefully help stem the tide of young people moving away to find work in cities. Mentoring in outlying areas could inspire job seekers to become job generators, which improves local economies and creates closer-knit societies. To this end, he has been pivotal to the growing success of BYST's Mobile Mentor Clinic, which sees mentors from urban areas travel to rural entrepreneurs' doorsteps to deliver necessary support and guidance.
Mohan's mentees, such as entrepreneur Hitender Punyane who set up an air-conditioning business - credit him with changing their outlook on life. With Mohan's help, Hitender identified and strengthened his core business before diversifying. Mohan's technical background helped improve Hitender's product- design and there has been a 100% growth in sales over the past 2 years.
Meanwhile, former high school teacher and special needs expert Faiza Natto, is dedicating her time to mentoring special needs young entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. Assistance for deaf young women, who often struggle to find employment in the private sector, is a particular focus for Faiza who is fluent in sign language and CEO of the Deaf Women's Club of Jeddah. For Faiza, mentoring is a powerful development and empowerment tool to help people progress in their careers. She is finding ways, together with YBI member The Centennial Fund (TCF) to support, help, train and encourage aspiring young female entrepreneurs.
Manal Al-Zoari, a young entrepreneur who is also deaf, said that "Mrs Faiza" helped her identify the pressures that people with her disability face. She assessed Manal's strengths and helped her overcome her challenges "As a result, I have a flourishing sewing business," Manal told us.
There is no doubt that mentoring demands time - usually spending between two to three hours per month per mentee. It is an undertaking that commands responsibility, commitment and a genuine desire to help, guide and challenge determined and motivated entrepreneurs achieve their potential and reach their goals.
And the rewards? According to Mohan, "While I help my entrepreneurs realise their potential, I feel that I discover many of my own hidden potential. It gives me great satisfaction when I help and see somebody succeed." Meanwhile, his mentees describe him as "a natural leader", "inspiring", and a man who "has a selfless attitude in sharing his 40 years of experience."
Mentoring is true to that old proverb 'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.' If you have the time, the skills and you are prepared to make the commitment, think seriously about becoming a mentor. What have you got to lose?
YBI will be honouring Mohan and Faiza at our upcoming global Young Entrepreneur Awards which is part of our Global Youth Entrepreneurship Summit. The Summit - supported by Accenture, Barclays and BG Group - is taking place in London between 9th and 12th September.