Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are literally dying of embarrassment in New Zealand because they are ashamed of seeking help just when they need it most, warns Ray Schofield, CEO of Business Mentors New Zealand, the only national, volunteer business mentoring organisation.
Mr Schofield says that many SMEs run into trouble early in their development but won’t ask for the help that could see them through a rough patch.
He explains: `There are lots of challenges in those first few months and early years of setting up a business but the New Zealand stoical attitude means that many struggling enterprises fail to seek help in time. The double whammy at 18 months when provisional tax really kicks in is often the final straw. But if only owner operators got themselves a business mentor earlier, more of them would survive. Our volunteer mentors, who provide a free service for up to two years, often arrive just in the nick of time.’
Business Mentors Patron Partner, Statistics New Zealand: NZ Business Demography Statistics for 2012 reports that there were only 40,690 new enterprises set up in New Zealand, a fall of 11.2 per cent on the previous year. This was the lowest birth rate since comparable data was first collected in 2000 and the third year in a row that more businesses have closed than opened. There were 469,120 enterprises in total, down by 0.8 per cent on the previous year.
Lisa Ford, Business Mentors National Agency Manager told a meeting of volunteer mentors hosted by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development at North Harbour Stadium this week: `Time after time our coordinators tell us they call up a new company owner to arrange mentoring only to find that they know nothing about it. That’s because their partner has called us in because they can see the business is struggling. They are simply too ashamed to ask for help themselves, yet some of the most successful companies in the country have got where they are today with the help of a business mentor. It’s something they really should be proud of doing. None of us knows everything and it’s the smart guys who know when to pull in an expert advisor.’
Business ‘deaths’ have outnumbered ‘births’ for the past three years meaning the total number of enterprises has been falling since 2009 with 30,000 fewer businesses set up last year than in 2004. Mentors report that finding the right support, financial as well as expertise, advice and tools to put a new venture on a sustainable footing are vital components to success.
Business Mentors New Zealand helps around 250 businesses find a mentor every month and has assisted more than 65,000 small to medium-size enterprise owners in New Zealand in the last 22 years. Business Mentors provides access to over 1,900 volunteer mentors (who give their experience, skill and knowledge free of charge). The $150 registration fee allows mentoring for up to two years.
For more information please visit www.businessmentors.org.nz