Researcher uncovers value of business mentoring

Research Services Limited began as a specialist information provider for clients in the building industry in 2009.
Co-founded and run by Karline de Boer, Research Services provides tailored investigative research services for for start-ups, SME businesses, local government agencies, business associations and chambers of commerce and has now done work in 14 industry sectors.
When Karline felt the business had hit a flat spot in early 2014 she contacted Business Mentors New Zealand to help her and was matched with volunteer business mentor Russell Freeman.

“I was confident our business model was sound and giving our customers real value but I needed someone to challenge me and help the business to improve the revenue line and improve our business practices,” Karline said.
“When it is just yourself running the business it’s very useful to have a fresh pair of eyes to test your thinking and help to answer the question am I doing the right thing? Russell has a broad industry background and his fresh perspectives have taught me to be more open-minded and give some new ideas a go.”

Russell Freeman is an experienced businessman and has been running his own businesses for 40 years. For the past three years he and wife Margaret together with their two daughters have been running The Costume Company, a flourishing Wellington costume hire business that also provides a fun family working experience.
“When I first met Karline it was clear to me she wanted to be successful and the concept of her business looked great. The opportunities we identified were to develop her sales processes and the confidence to sell, and for Karline to be more disciplined with her time and how she applied it to the home-based business,” Russell said.

Russell says he became a mentor because he is a proud and committed Wellingtonian and thought that by sharing his experiences he could make a contribution to the local SME community.

“Small business owners have few opportunities to compare notes and most will feel lonely or isolated at times. As a business mentor my job is to listen in a non-judgemental way, offer guidance and present options for the business owner.”

Research Services is in the business of information discovery and Russell says that his experience of mentoring SME clients is also a journey of discovery.
“Some businesses would like you to tell them what to do and solve their problems for them, but really it is the things that get revealed when you start talking that give us the insights we need to help the client work things out for themselves.”
Karline and Russell have been meeting at least monthly since June last year and Karline regularly sends material to Russell by email to get another view.

“I’m really pleased with the relationship I have with Russell. He’s accessible and available when I need him and I’ve got results,” said Karline.
“We developed a good rapport very quickly and the result of Russell’s early suggestions gave us the footing for a trusting relationship. It’s important to be up front and clear about what you want from your mentor and Russell allowed me to do that.”