It was Oprah Winfrey who said: I think mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship. Nobody makes it alone. Nobody has made it alone. And we are all mentors to people even when we don’t know it

The value of mentorship has been highlighted by many successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs. Studies show that mentorship can be the key to success and longevity.

The US Small Business Administration notes that businesses that received an estimated three hours or more of mentorship make more money, experience more growth and enjoy greater longevity. Some “70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses”.

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One person who knows the value of mentorship is the First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos, who has relied on the wise counsel of her predecessor to guide her in taking on the monumental role.

“She went through all the technical stuff, but, most importantly, she took me through what the public doesn’t see. Only somebody who has held my position could mentor me in this regard,” she explains.

Before assuming the role of First Lady in 2015, Geingos, a qualified lawyer, spent many years in business. She attributes much her success to lessons she’s learnt as a mentor and a mentee from various people.


Realise that mentorship comes in many forms

“Mentorship comes in all forms and you can actually be mentored by many people; it doesn’t have to be a formal relationship,” explains Geingos. One surprising lesson came from a strict boss.

“Some 10 years after I left the company, I realised he taught me the most in terms of work ethic, integrity and attention to detail,” she says.

Be clear about what you want

 Geingos says a lot of people looking for mentorship aren’t specific enough.

“What is it that you want? You must be clear. You must be able to tell me that you’ve got this product to sell to the market, but you don’t have the right network or asking me to send an email to the CEO of Standard Bank, for example, because you know I have a good relationship with him,” she says.

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Provide value

“Be careful of being a mentee who just takes. You must also give. There must be value in the relationship for both of you,” says Geingos.

Have a teachable spirit

Geingos says it is important to stay open to learning. A young woman who wanted her to be Geingos’s mentor turned out to be her teacher instead.

“I realised I needed to seek her mentorship because, in the past five years, she’s crafted an unbelievable journey. She’s done something I would have loved to do and she’s taught me it’s never too late to learn a new skill or study something new,” she says.

Ensure that you are internationally relevant

Often people limit themselves to their immediate surroundings. Geingos advises people to look further afield.

“If you apply to work on Wall Street, are you suitably qualified? How do you look to an international eye? That’s what my New York-based mentor taught me. You must be internationally relevant.”

Don’t let success go to your head

“The most challenging part of success is managing it and the biggest thing that you need to manage is your ego because you will believe it when everybody starts telling you that you are great. Make a conscious decision to manage your success,” says Geingos.

Walk away from things that don’t serve you

“There are certain things in life from which you have to walk away – it could be a family member, a friend, or a work colleague, or a stagnant investment. There comes a time in your life where you have to say: ‘This is an eindelose verskrik [“endless terror”],’” she says. 


Additional reporting: US Small Business Administration