Who pays for my business support and who gets it for free?
After living now for two years in southern Africa I am in business on an unexpected scale. Of course, I know what I did to get there. Now I am there, and with a lot of pleasure, it raises the question: about how I position myself: as a commercial or as a social entrepreneur, or as mixture of both? And more in detail: to which starting entrepreneur do I offer business mentoring for free and who gets an invoice for receiving the same expert support?
Doing business in Africa knows its own rules, as I wrote in my previous blog. In this blog you read how I apply that insight in my business development support.
I hit on an advert of MicroMentor Support (https://www.micromentor.org/) on Facebook that invited businesspersons to support starting entrepreneurs, mostly living in 3rd world countries. MicroMentor is the world’s largest community of entrepreneurs and volunteer business mentors. Please join it!
I had not a second thought, I immediately subscribed. Within two weeks a stream of support requests filled my inbox. Also requests came in from LinkedIn after an update of my profile, I am harvesting now one request per day……. This influx of support invitations began before putting this website. This website with a personal branding and focused on business is generating another stream of requests for support/mentoring.
All these requests and seeing from whom they came, made me think about with what policy I differentiate between non-profit and commercial mentoring. And with what ethics I do this business development? A business from what I also want to have an income and financial stability for my new African family.
A summary of several requests:
- Starting industrialist of non-medical skin care products; no business plan, no cash.
- Brewer of a new beer asking how to introduce this to the market; no marketing plan.
- An financial with an online platform to connect borrowers and lenders; no borrowers.
- An NGO-related idealist with agricultural projects; lack of funding and no business plan.
- IT entrepreneur with proven solutions but not enough clients; no focus and no plan.
- A Chinese manufacturer of Cranes and heavy machinery; no entrance in the African market.
- A fintech start-up with a wish for rapid up-scaling; organizational and cash issues.
- A tech hub without a clear business model and a mixed portfolio of free and paid services.
I mixed the ‘commercial’ and the ‘not-for-profit’ requests. Can you say of all requests which are coming from the commercial or the non-commercial channel?
On this website I state that every business must be profitable, to generate besides an income financial means for charity and social projects. That could be a criterion for delivering my free or charged support: if the young/starting entrepreneur does not postulate anything about a social responsibility goal, I could charge her/him. A fine for selfishness? But here I cut in all cases in my own fingers: I will always advise, and when necessarily with some power, to draft a paragraph about the societal involvement in the business plan. If this leads to some hesitation (for example: “I throw the money away what I need for my company”), I will argue that this paragraph is not a free option, but a marketing must.
My leading principle is that successful commercial entrepreneurs bring forward the money/my income that is not paid by the entrepreneurs who are not charged. And I differentiate as follows in who pays and who get my business support for free:
- If you develop a commercial business, I will charge you just as the tax instances also will charge you after you became successful.
- I will not charge you for a business that is not profitable within a year from the moment we start working together.
- I will not charge you if you develop a non-profit business with positive revenues.
What will I charge you and when?
The what/how much. I will define with the businessperson who I charge what is reasonable to pay for the delivered (not: to deliver) support. I will announce this when we start to develop the business. Together we will define a criterion than we will apply on the appropriate moment.
The when. Taking payments on a moment that this is counterproductive to my own advice to reinvest every outcome, and it will not happen. When I charge you, I will take care no to deprive you/your company from cashflow what you need to develop your business, for example to design a new website, performing on a marketing action, investing in a new infrastructure, and so on.
Charges can be paid in a mixture of rewardings, like most companies do: cash payment or a transfer for an invoice on an earlier specified date, profit sharing, co-shareholder ship, payment in goods or services from the business portfolio.
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