Business mentor is a natural “must have”

Business Mentor Jaakko Barsk and his Mentee, HITLab CEO Ahmed Shalaby agreed to share their views on business mentoring.

It doesn’t take long to notice that the mentor/mentee relationship between Jaakko Barsk and Ahmed Shalaby has become very deep along the years, yet it is still quite demanding for both of them.

– Your mentor is someone who shakes your brains and doesn’t let you stay locked in your first idea. I sometimes oppose Ahmed even if I agree with him, just so we can handle a wider scope of ideas, says Barsk.

– It took me years to understand how I can make the best out of this, someone always stretching me to the other direction, Shalaby says.

Jaakko Barks and Ahmed Shalaby at Technopolis Tampere
Meeting regularly, sometimes discussing for hours, sometimes 10 o’clock in the evening… Business mentor Jaakko Barsk and mentee Ahmed Shalaby have a mutually rewarding mentorship relation.

M.Sc (Tech.), ABM Jaakko Barsk is Managing Director of JOBTEC business consulting and has a long career combining industry, innovations and international marketing. Export business took him and his family to Malesia, Saudi Arabia and Texas, USA. He joined Pirkanmaa Business Mentors association (Pirkanmaan Yrityskummit ry.) in 2007.

– I wanted to transfer my experience and knowhow to younger companies, because our future is over there, Barsk explains.

Dr. Ahmed Shalaby, CMBChB, Ch.M.,Ph.D.,CEO of Tampere-based HITLab Ltd, is one of Barsk’s first mentees. Egyptian Shalaby is a heart surgeon who decided to become an entrepreneur. HITLab, or Human Information Technology Laboratory is using the combination of IT, artificial intelligence and psychology to help people find their core talent and thus the right job. That would make people both happy and efficient, and on a larger scale, help solve the mismatch between labour supply and demand.

– So our aim is to cure serious problems in the economy and help people to be true to themselves, Shalaby summarises.

The service of Pirkanmaa Business Mentors is free of charge, otherwise there are no strict rules. All mentor/mentee relationships are unique. Barsk and Shalaby describe theirs as a two-way learning process, a win-win situation.

– For any entrepreneur a mentor is a natural “must have”, like a coach for a soccer team. Someone to ask you the right questions, to see you from outside with constructive criticism and sometimes just to listen to you, Shalaby says.

– Entrepreneurs are often pretty much alone, especially in the beginning, when also the biggest mistakes are usually made. If their strategy is wrong, their money is quickly used up, and that’s it, then, Barsk explains.

Barsk and Shalaby emphasize that there is no such thing as asking for a mentor too early – but there are too many cases of being too late. It is better to get the maximum guidance when you really need it i.e. when starting a business, than to wait until things look really gloomy.

– Mentors are not miracle makers, says Barsk.

Shalaby also underlines that not anyone can be a good mentor. Talent, charisma and knowlegde are required, and deep entrepreneurial experience is essential.

– Like in soccer: just watching the game does not make you a good coach but years of practicing and playing might, he says.

Pirkanmaa (Tampere Region) Business Mentors is an association offering experienced support to SMEs at different business development phases.

The product of HITlab is globally oriented and therefore internationally marketed, targeting Europe at the moment. Potential clients are governments and public sector.

– The most important role for a mentor in the export phase is to understand how different cultures make decisions, how to enter different markets and contact people there, Barsk says.

There are also thousands of practical issues that need to be addressed and understood. An experienced mentor is certainly an asset there. Not to mention the whole mindset that makes one see opportunities where others see just trouble.

– Export starts by innovating from the destination point of view: look, you’ve got this problem and here we come with the solution! says Shalaby.

Pirkanmaa Business Mentors is an association offering experienced support to SMEs at different business development phases. For additional information: www.yrityskummit.net/in-english/

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