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Businesses turning to mentors in tough times

Business Mentors New Zealand says many SMEs are in distress and is seeing older companies seeking help for the first time.

Distress among small businesses is driving them to seek out mentoring, including many older companies requesting guidance for the first time.

Business Mentors New Zealand (BMNZ), the nation’s only not-for-profit mentoring organisation, says demand from SMEs is high and figures from the first financial quarter reveal pockets of adversity particularly in Christchurch and the Pike River area.

Mentor visits have seen a jump, with 14 percent of all mentors meeting with their clients on more than six different occasions.

Chief executive Ray Schofield says: "We are seeing increases in demand for our services in many parts of the country well up on last year ... Older businesses are now being affected, some who have been trading for 20 years or more who are being affected by cash flow and collection difficulties and the domino effect of economic disturbances which are running right through the SME sector.

"Small business just doesn’t have the resources to carry that sort of burden indefinitely. It can be a vicious circle: as jobs drop off it gets harder for the remaining companies."

Schofield says both mentoring sessions and client satisfaction have hit an all time high. Eighty-two percent reported overall satisfaction and 92.4 percent would recommend its service.

Winter can also be a hard time for traders and is BMNZ's peak season. The government has allocated 20 extra field advisors to the organisation and new sponsors including Sovereign Insurance and IAG have come onboard.

Established in 1991, BMNZ provides access to 1,700 volunteer mentors. It is funded largely by the private sector, with additional support from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.