Making The Case For Mentorship (Especially Now, In A World Still Reeling From The COVID-19 Crisis)

A study conducted among 3,000 professionals in the US found that 76% believed having a mentor was crucial, but only 37% had one.

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A few years ago, I had the pleasure of mentoring Aly Rahimtoola, the founder of the clean beauty line, Herbal Essentials, which, at the time, was based in the UAE. “Aly, you need to relocate to the UK in order to grow the European and global market,” I told him, and within two years, Herbal Essentials has become a brand that’s now present in 14 markets globally. This was probably one of the best pieces of advice I could have given him.

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Mentoring is one of the fastest ways to develop talent and accelerate leadership potential. It can be immensely rewarding for both mentor and mentee, providing opportunities to learn from each other, gain new insights that enrich each person’s perspective moving forward.

Mentorship can also be transformative. It creates a sense of purpose through structured goal-setting. It derives a sense of satisfaction from achievements, and takes a mentee out of their comfort zone. Recent studies show that 67% of businesses reported an increase in productivity due to mentoring, and 55% of businesses felt it had a positive impact on their profits.

I’ve benefitted profoundly from some of my own mentors, including my father. From identifying passions, best practices around business ethics, goal setting and specific lessons on marketing and advertising, I’ve learnt a considerable amount, which I pass on to those who can benefit from my experiences and network.

Organizations such as Endeavor and Young Arab Leaders (YAL) play a pivotal role in connecting mentors with mentees. The scale of innovation showcased by entrepreneurs who I met and guided through Endeavor –including TruKKer, Herbal Essentials, M’OISHÎ, and Hunter Foods– is truly inspiring and fulfilling.

Knowledge transfer is the essence

Mentorship is essentially a commitment to add real value through relevant experience, expertise and networking. Endeavor, for instance, supports entrepreneurs through its unrivalled global network and peer-to-peer community.

A few years ago, through Endeavor, I had an interesting discussion with the founder of Protein Bakeshop on how brand marketing can add value to the end customer. I also spoke about the Art of Dialogue cultural series, organized at Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group (ESAG) Design Hub, and how it grew our customer reach. This led him to think of talks and sessions on health and nutrition that would add further value to Protein Bakeshop’s end consumers.

Mentorship is also about creating practical opportunities to test the relevance of innovative ideas. For instance, YAL endorses bright ideas from budding entrepreneurs. Recently, three young entrepreneurs presented a drone designed for the construction sector, which can document data during the construction of a building.

In turn, I connected these entrepreneurs to the real estate department of my family business for feedback and to explore how the prototype could be tested at our project sites. Our logistics department is supporting another idea called E-fate, by testing a waste management solution for electronic products, developed by three Emirati students from the Higher Colleges of Technologies.

As mentors guide entrepreneurs, a crucial part is helping to open doors of opportunity. Last year, I was inspired by a social impact startup called LiZZOM that develops organic sanitary napkins in the UAE using corn starch and bamboo. The entrepreneur, Chanda Lokendra, needed support to elevate the brand, which led me to recommend her for the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center’s (Sheraa) accelerator program.

The future of mentorship

A study conducted among 3,000 professionals in the US found that 76% believed having a mentor was crucial, but only 37% had one. These findings raise a few questions. Are mentors hard to find? Do organizations have mentorship programs in place?

We recently launched a mentorship program at ESAG to support career enhancement. The six-month program is designed to facilitate knowledge transfer through constructive conversations and provide access to relevant resources, be it time, relationships, or idea-testing opportunities. The program aims to identify emerging talents within our Group and offer them the right growth opportunities.

In a post-pandemic context, the value of and need for mentorship has become even more relevant. As we move away from the isolation of the pandemic, the need for human connect is even more important. Mentors can play an empowering role not only in a business capacity, but also through meaningful guidance on overall wellbeing

Mentoring is a unique opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. Every mentor has the potential to instigate surprising change. It enables you to take everything you have learned, and pay it forward.

Related: Business Mentorship: Why It's Great And How To Find The Perfect Mentor

Muna Al Gurg

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Muna Easa Al Gurg is a businesswoman and philanthropist from Dubai. She is Director of Retail at Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group and is on several boards of directors of companies as well as non-profit organizations. Muna is also the Chairwoman of Young Arab Leaders, an organization which promotes education, entrepreneurship, and youth development.