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USINESS MENTORING CAN BE A valuable way of assisting Boards of Directors and chief executives to improve performance, ignite new ideas and illuminate the way forward. The New Zealand marketplace is highly competitive and few industries have escaped the impact of new technologies, new and vigorous competitors and changing market conditions. To remain relevant, businesses need to adapt and manage their product offer, pricing and strategy in the face of an open economy. Businesses have practical issues to manage to best advantage that includes managing their existing opportunities and how their business can be positioned for the future. Many CEOs and Managing Directors find themselves in a lonely position managing responsibilities and stakeholder expectation with, at times, limited support from their Board of Directors or senior executive teams. From personal experience, the Board culture or entrenched positions may not be conducive to fresh thinking and accepting the potential consequences of change. Change can be threatening and senior management may resist much needed reforms needed to address marketplace disruption, new competitors or other challenges, because those senior management may be personally impacted by those changes. We have seen instances of an executive delaying making tough decisions holding to deal with a changing landscape in the hope that some unlikely ‘magic event’ would make the future all right. Successful companies have the courage to carefully evaluate opportunities and the associated risk in a structured manner. For the Board or CEO, having someone to talk to, to objectively discuss these challenges is almost always helpful, especially if that person is constructive and not judgmental. A business mentor can assist the debate in a variety of ways by considering the real or fundamental issues that the business is facing rather than grappling with people matters. Coming from outside with no predetermined view or any knowledge of the internal people dynamics should

Article by Colin Theyers STAPLES RODWAY AUCKLAND

allow a free thinking debate on what is the best course for the business and how to best deal with new or existing challenges. Mentoring done well should provide a non-confrontational forum to discuss the position of the business, future prospects and longer term goals. We have completed many projects supporting Boards of Directors and the CEO in helping to define and address the future. These projects drive from a structured process including determining what is important to the business, what are the opportunities, the key performance indicators (KPI), and measuring and improving the alignment between executive performance and stakeholder expectations. Outputs have included an updated business plan and strategy, restructuring options, more relevant performance measurement criteria, identifying the most pressing risks and assessing the sensitivity of various opportunities. Financial models can be very useful in assessing various options and using the model to integrate and measure actual performance. Some clients have requested that the mentoring assistance be reinforced and continued through a more formal governance-based relationship by the appointment as a Director. Governance may be seen by some clients as an academic term for ticking the boxes that may satisfy process but not achieve any business gains. Business mentoring can be a more hands on process of assisting business owners and executives to use an external objective resource to debate opportunities and develop practical solutions.

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