Mentoring: Contributing to the development of Indigenous businesses

Supply Nation believes that Indigenous businesses can develop and grow through supportive mentoring relationships with Supply Nation Members. These relationships are formed through Indigenous businesses working collaboratively with experienced people from  Supply Nation Member organisations. 

Mentoring is a shared experience between a mentor and a mentee. A mentor is an experienced person who shares their professional skills and personal experiences with someone with less experience (mentee) to grow and develop through a shared process. In the supplier diversity space, an effective mentoring relationship is a learning partnership between a senior, more experienced individual from a Supply Nation Member company and a Supply Nation Certified Indigenous business owner or manager. The mentoring relationship involves collaboration between the parties involved, setting mutually defined goals, working through business challenges and providing feedback about best practices. Matching the correct Member mentor with a mentee is essential to achieving mutually defined goals that benefit the Indigenous business. 

David Clutterbuck mentioned in his article ‘Business mentoring in evolution’, that “mentoring is one of the fastest growing aspects of people development in business.” He also highlighted the numerous benefits of an effective mentoring relationship.

For Member mentors, benefits may include:

  • The opportunity to share knowledge, skills and understandings learned throughout their years of experience. 
  • Building relationships with developing Indigenous business managers and owners. This can provide new insights into working with Indigenous people and working in the Indigenous business sector.
  • Assisting the development of an Indigenous business which can increase their capability and capacity.
  • It is also an opportunity for Member mentors to reflect on one’s own knowledge, beliefs and business practices while simultaneously developing specific skills such as listening, observing, reframing and counselling.

While on the other hand, for Indigenous business mentees the benefits may include:

  • Increased business knowledge and skills.
  • Regular and constructive feedback provided by a more experienced individual.
  • Building a relationship with a Supply Nation Member including learning about the Member organisation, which will assist the mentee to understand a buyer’s perspective.
  • Increased encouragement and support to build self confidence and awareness.

Steps to a successful mentoring program

1. Identification of a suitable Member mentor and Indigenous business mentee – both parties must be available, approachable and receptive.

Supply Nation can assist Members interested in mentoring an Indigenous business by providing a coordination service and matching process. A Member company should identify suitable personnel who have the appropriate personal qualities such as openness to new ideas, sensitivity to the needs and concerns of others and ability to listen effectively. Once they are identified, their skills and knowledge mix is forwarded to Supply Nation to register their interest. Mentors need to have a commitment to the mentoring relationship between themselves and the Indigenous business personnel. They must have a willingness to make time available to meet. A sense of trustworthiness needs to be established for the partnership to be productive. This is addressed when both parties meet and discuss the mentor-mentee briefing. Hence, sufficient experience to be knowledgeable about the focus areas of the mentoring and business growth is vital.

2. Individual preparation for the mentoring program - Member mentor and Indigenous business mentee

Supply Nation can assist in coordinating individual mentor and mentee briefings. The individual briefing ensures that each individual has a clear understanding about the purpose of the mentoring relationship, an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the mentor and mentee, and what needs to be negotiated between the mentor and mentor which will ultimately contribute to the mentoring agreement. The mentee will also identify some key areas for focus of the mentoring.

3. Introductory meeting - mentoring is a relationship and requires trust

An Indigenous mentee needs to feel safe and comfortable with their Member mentor if the mentoring is to be effective. Supply Nation can help foster this by organising the first meeting between both parties. An introductory meeting is critical before a mentoring relationship can commence. This allows the Member mentor and Indigenous mentee to build a rapport before they commence any formal mentoring; it also allows them to get a feel for whether they feel safe and comfortable to talk and to proceed. If, for some unforeseeable reason, the Indigenous mentee decides not to proceed with the selected Member mentor, this will be accommodated and provisions made to identify a new Member mentor. Supply Nation can intercede and provide assistance to both individuals, to ensure the relationship between Member mentor and Indigenous mentee is right from the beginning. 

4. Complete a mentoring agreement - confirm the details of the mentoring relationship in an agreement

To ensure the mentoring relationship is fruitful, the Member mentor and Indigenous mentee must enter a mentoring agreement. At this stage, Supply Nation will act as an intermediary to support and bring about the agreement. The agreement is a contract; an agreement concerning promises made between both parties to fulfil their obligations and abide by a certain code of conduct. Thus, it is important for the mentoring partners to share an understanding of the commitment they are making to the relationship and the responsibilities shared, to ensure that it works for both parties.

The mentoring agreement will outline the following:

  • Duration of mentoring including the start and end date - how long will the mentoring run? 3 months, 6 months or 1 year?
  • Frequency of mentoring sessions - will you meet weekly,  fortnight, monthly?
  • Length of sessions - Are you meeting for half an hour or an hour?
  • Mode of meetings - Will you meet face to face, by phone, Skype, email?
  • Detail the code of practice - Confidentiality. What happens when one person can’t meet confidentiality requirements?

5. Monitoring points - monitoring the mentoring allows a check on effectiveness

Supply Nation will assist by building in monitoring progression at particular points in the mentoring timeframe. This will allow the Member mentor and Indigenous mentee an opportunity to reflect on the mentoring thus far and give an indication of it’s effectiveness.

6. Conclusion & Evaluation – seek feedback from both Member mentor & Indigenous mentee at the conclusion

Supply Nation acknowledges that feedback is critical for the ongoing improvement, development and performance of any program. At the conclusion of the mentoring agreement, feedback should be sought individually from the Member mentor and the Indigenous mentee. The feedback can be obtained by completing  a Supply Nation survey or conducting a feedback debrief between Supply Nation with the Member mentor and Indigenous mentee. However you choose to seek the feedback, it is important for maintaining the effectiveness of the Supply Nation Member and Indigenous Mentoring Program. 

Mentoring can contribute to the development of Indigenous businesses. Supply Nation has started the identification process of finding suitable Member mentors.

Participation in a collaborative mentoring process will provide great benefit to both Member mentors and Indigenous mentees. If you’re interested in mentoring an Indigenous business please email