Why mentors matter by Muna Al Gurg, Vice Chairperson and Director of Retail

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 and share with each other, gain new insights that enrich each person’s perspective moving forward.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of mentoring 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 said. Within two years Herbal Essentials are now present in 14 new markets. This was probably one of the best pieces of advice I could have given him.

Mentorship can 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.

Knowledge transfer is the essence
Organisations 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. As mentors guide entrepreneurs, a crucial part is helping to open doors of opportunity.

Last year, I was inspired by a social impact start-up called LiZZOM that develops organic sanitary napkins in the UAE using corn starch and bamboo. As the entrepreneur needed support to take the brand to the next level, I recommended Chanda Lokendra for the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center’s (Sheraa) accelerator programme.

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.

Smart matchmaking is key
Mentorship is 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 had shared how the ‘Art of Dialogue’ art series organised at Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group (ESAG) Design Hub 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. Young Arab Leaders 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 with our real estate department 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.

Put in place a mentorship programme
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 organisations have mentorship programmes in place?

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

The future of mentorship
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.”