Teboho Daniel Molopi
TOO often the entrepreneurial journey becomes too difficult, lonely and unbearable, particularly where businesses are started as a result of some difficult circumstances, such as having no job, no income, and such financial hardships. Many people start small businesses — either formally of informally — to fight off economic challenges, with little or no capital, relevant skills and/or confidence to make a success of their business. In this stressful time, who does the entrepreneur turn to?
A growing business is typically challenging as it requires transformation of the business owner. Possession of general business management skills and in particular strategic position of one’s business becomes very critical. Understanding the business and economic environment becomes key to the business owner. In this situation, who does the businessperson turn to?
The critical resources required for any business are basically financial (money), market intelligence, and entrepreneurial skills. Too often some level of market information is available, and the desire to start a business is available, while money is limited. Putting the little money you have into a new business is quite risky, and needs all the assurance that the business will succeed. And there is always no such guarantee. Studies conducted internationally point to the fact that out of 100 new small businesses started fewer than 10 make it past three years. A high failure rate indeed!
To deal with these challenging situations the entrepreneurs need assistance of a legal practitioner, a marketer, human resource specialist, an environmentalist, accountant, financial guru, value chain analyst, researcher, etc. But can a startup business afford all these “specialists”? Too often no!
Over a period of time a body of knowledge has developed, residing in a person with a cross-knowledge and experience in many of these critical support functions; a person who is well-informed on general skills covering a wider range of business subjects. These generalists are often referred to as business advisors (since they advise on certain aspects of the business), business consultants (as you seek their specialized skills in times of need), business counselors (as they help you deal with challenges in your business), business coaches (as they help you navigate through the ‘unknown business environment’ and make you succeed), or business mentors (as they use their own skills and experiences to help you make better business decisions and take best strategies for your business).
The small business sector the world over is best supported by these business advisors/ counselors/coaches/consultants/mentors for their holistic and yet general knowledge based on their education, practical training, personal experiences and passion for the small business sector. These ‘generalist’ (and others are indeed specialists in certain areas) business advisors/consultants/coaches/counselors/mentors are catalysts in the small business sector; a sounding board for most entrepreneurs with some business ideas; a bridge/link between an entrepreneur and other support providers, such as financing institutions, big business, technology providers, legal enforcement agencies, revenue collectors/administrators, and other business intelligence sources.
Typical tasks the business advisors/counselors/consultant/coaches/mentors include conducting feasibility studies of business ideas, conducting due diligence, developing business plans, facilitating strategic planning, conducting market research, preparing financial statements, analyzing financial statements, preparing financial projections, doing productivity analysis, developing turnaround strategies (for businesses in distress), preparing basic contracts, (e.g. employment, service level agreement, etc). Some also facilitate skills training in their areas of specialization.
Business Advising, consulting. Coaching and Mentoring practitioners are professionally certified, monitored and even developed by international bodies such as the Institute of Business Advisors and the Institute of Management Consultants and Mentors. There are Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes which the registered business advisors and consultants have to follow to keep abreast with the international developments and best practices.
Lesotho is in the process of establishing a Lesotho chapter of professional, registered and certified/licensed business advisors and consultants. For further details or for comments you may contact Teboho Daniel Molopi, a member of the Institute of Business Advisors IBA) in South Africa and a member of the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) in Southern Africa. He can be contacted on 63291988 and firstname.lastname@example.org