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How do we go about providing the best impact we can for our small business clients? This is the question Nomvuyo Bengane, Founder of BizOil Institute and panelist on the recent episode of the Small Business Development Practitioner Webinar Series asked at the start of this event.

The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Institute of Business Advisors (IBASA) and the Entrepreneurial Planning Institute (EPI) are presenting the Continuous Professional Development webinars to help practitioners with improving their impact on the growth of their small business clients.

Bengane explained that it is not what practitioners arrive with that matters most, but what the clients need and the context they operate in. “Business support practitioners need to respond to what their clients will benefit most from, rather than to go into their default mode of work,” she said. “And when you are not the best person to support them, you need to know how to provide them access to other professionals.”

Bengane explained that the context and specific conditions of a client will determine how to best support them. For this, it is important to clearly understand the difference between the different modes of support available to practitioners.

She provided the following definitions to explain the options…

  • Consulting is the activity of giving expert advice about a particular subject.
  • Training is similar to consulting where learning the skills and knowledge needed for a particular job or activity are attended to.
  • Mentoring is where a senior and more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned to act as a guide to a junior. The mentor is responsible for providing support to and feedback.
  • Coaching is partnering with clients in a thoughtprovoking and creative process where the clients are inspired to maximise their personal and professional potential.

These definitions are important to note as different modes of support are appropriate for different client contexts. The same client can also require different ways of being supported for different elements of their lives or different elements of their businesses.

During her webinar presentation, Bengane used the table above to give context to these definitions and to explain how the support offered by a practitioner will vary.

“Support practitioners do not have to impart knowledge all the time. In fact, in many situations that may be the wrong way to try and support a client who may know much more than the practitioner about a specific topic or area of work,” she said.

It was emphasised during webinar discussions that practitioners must be open with their clients about the options in the way they may be supported. The implication is that all practitioners have to understand the essential differences between these modes of support, which they are better equipped to offer and which is the right mode of support to meet the client’s needs.

Linda Dent, Owner of Just Ask Linda was the second panelist on the webinar. She shared her practical experience of supporting new and more established businesses where she is not only fulling the role of mentor, advisor, coach and consultant, but also financial guru, cheerleader and philosopher.

Dent explained that you need to be clear about which of these “hats” you are wearing when supporting your clients. You have to establish trust and create a safe space so that you can listen to your clients to understand where they are at and what they need to be able to move forward.

“You need to understand what it is they need from you,” Dent explained. “And to do this you need to find out what their strengths are, what their expectations are and you need to get their permission on the way you are to support them.”

“If you need to change your style of support, you also have to go to them to get permission to change your style,” she said. “I find it is most important to maintain structure in the support I give and to keep agreeing with the client on the next steps.”

A poll conducted during the webinar showed that attendees are generally good at checking in with their clients on the way they support them. Less than a quarter reported that they do not check or do not check much. Another quarter reported that they check in some times, while nearly half (43%) said they always check-in or mostly check-in.

 

  • To join the next CPD webinar you can << REGISTER HERE>>.
  • Christoff Oosthuysen is the webinar host, Founding CEO of the Entrepreneurial Planning Institute (EPI) and General Partner at Seed South Capital.

 

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