Business Coach and Mentor, Biz Growth Project, Australia
With over 21 years of experience in the banking and financial sector, Manisha Rai, Business Coach and Mentor, Biz Growth Project, Australia, is today helping business owners start up, scale, and grow their businesses. Over the years she has held senior management roles across a wide range of business units in major banks and brokerages across Australia including NAB, ANZ and Aussie Home Loans. Through her career, Rai also provided mentoring services with Leadership Victoria and Australian Migration Settlement amongst other volunteer and community work that aligns with her passion and values for giving back to the community, something she continues to prioritise and devote her time.
In early 2021, she launched Biz Growth Project where she has been offering one-to-one business coaching, private mentoring for mortgage brokers, and bespoke training programmes on leadership and sales for small businesses.
Rai was recently in Kathmandu when Business 360 caught up with her to learn about her thoughts on business and coaching.
What does a business coach actually do?
Business coaching is very big in the US and it has a big following and clout. However, in Nepal it is a fairly new term, a new trend that is just happening. Business coaching is basically what I would define as an expert coming into the business to help you hone your skills or help you scale and grow your business. So, at times you might not have the skills to run your business and you hire an expert and rely on their expertise to scale your business. It could be a startup, an existing business or it could be something in transition. While planning to hire a business coach you have to be aware of what you exactly want for your business. For example, you may be a medium-sized business looking to get into the online economy, so how do you transition that? What is the skill sets you require? How do you grow? How are you going to set up an app and optimise that? Those are the specific skills I bring in. I don’t give you all the answers but I guide you there.
What is the difference between a coach and a mentor?
I do mentoring too in the finance industry. A lot of companies in Australia provide home loans, car loans and business loans. My role for mentoring them is a holistic approach rather than a specific skill set. Coaching means specific to the business but mentoring is more of a holistic approach where you take them from working for someone else to starting their own business. You set them up from starting their business, planning, and working with them regarding the technicalities like how to obtain a loan, credit writing, submission of documents and customer management. It is more of a holistic approach and coaching is specific to the business needs.
How important is it to have a business coach and how does it benefit the person availing the service?
What one has to realise is that there is no instant uplift or injection of quick-fix solutions. It is more of a long-term version. Normally, I would take a client through a six-month contract because it is a very long process. Coaching is also about keeping business owners accountable for their actions. So, when you are running a business, you often start by telling yourself you have got a set of skills and you are great at it but you might not necessarily have the skills for management operations or cash flow issues, or any other skill that is related to the business. That’s when you have to hire an expert to help sustain and then grow the business.
Whenever I take on a client, I usually talk about the future business plans and their vision. What do they stand for? Where are they at, at the moment? Where do they want to see themselves in five years’ time? What are the future prospects of the business? I also look into how you break that down into today, tomorrow and what you did yesterday. I analyse all the data to move forward.
Is there any specific training that one has to go through to be a business coach, or a certification?
There is no certification required to be a business coach. It is industry specific and you need to be an expert in your field. I am a coach because I have 21 years of experience in the banking and finance industry and I bring that expertise. There is no qualification as such. There is an international coaching accreditation worldwide which is called the International Coaching Federation, however, it does not teach you specifically how to become a coach. It is sort of just saying ‘hey here is the certificate and I am now a certified coach’. I am certified from Business Made Simple which was started by an American author and entrepreneur called Donald Miller. I went to get that certificate just to get a holistic view of coaching. But it is not necessary. Many people go through different pathways to become a coach.
How can we differentiate between a good coach and an average one?
The first priority would be to assess whether the coach is the right fit for you or not. What are you looking for and exploring? And you need to interview the coach on whether they are the right one for you. That’s what I encourage my clients to do. There are times when I get clients whom I feel I cannot help. They feel they already know better and a shift in mentality is not going to happen in that situation. It is not something like there is a coach out there and I will hire them. You will have to speak to them and ensure that they are the right fit for you and assess whether that coach is going to help you fill the gaps that exist in your business and grow. You have to be clear on which direction you want to go in.
You were involved in the finance industry for a long time. How do you view the financial sector in Nepal?
I was recently at a banking and finance conference in Kathmandu and it was an eye-opener for me. When some speakers were talking about the economic outlook for Nepal in 2030, they were focusing on digitalising and bank closures and it was a déjà vu for me. Those are the things I did 10 years ago in Australia. I was involved in closing branches in Australia for ANZ for many years. I had already had that conversation 10 years back. The same conversation is just beginning to happen here and the action is not going to happen for another three to five years.
From a quick observation, I feel there are more banks in Nepal than the population needs. It is like anyone who has the required capital can open a bank.
I personally also feel there have to be some changes in the hiring process. There has to be an academy for young graduates to provide them the skills that work in the finance sector. The internships here are usually only three months so you are not learning anything basically. How are you going to have a career in finance? The pathway for someone aspiring to be a banker has to be clear. I have noticed some celebrity bankers here and I think they are lifting the motivation of youngsters to be like them. But even if some young graduate today wants to work in finance, it is a very difficult pathway; there is no clear direction.
Banks are being urged to merge. But if you look at Lehman Brothers in the US which collapsed and subsequently led to a financial downturn across the world, do you feel a bigger bank means more stability?
I think that bank mergers need to be about solving a particular issue or threat. What is the purpose of merging? Are you just trying to be the biggest person in the room by merging two banks together? Or is there an underlying purpose behind the merger? Are you merging to provide a better customer service, better stability in terms of your digital platforms and internet banking or are you just merging because you want to beat someone else? There has to be a purpose for it. Bigger banks do not mean they are going to be successful. Merging takes a lot of time and effort but it does not mean that just because you are a big bank you will be successful. Two CEOs need to be merged, two MDs, two different departments need to be merged. Also, going for a merger for an employee is equally difficult besides the whole strategy as well. So, working through that and showing that this is the goal we want to achieve with the merger and having a blueprint for that is very important rather than just merging for the sake of it.
How important do you think is woman entrepreneurship?
It is absolutely important. The first thing is that entrepreneurship is empowering. Secondly, it gives the recognition of the value you are adding to your family as well as the community. Often women themselves devalue the work we do at home. There are many women who do all the cooking and cleaning but say they are just housewives. But that is a very important aspect that they contribute to the household. However, for a woman to be valued, to be independent, taking those skills and running your business gets you a different level of confidence. The second thing is that you are actually empowering other women and your own kids to be able to take that step. It is difficult because you have to manage a lot of things but you have to get started.
There are many female entrepreneurs – small business owners in Australia and many in Nepal – who face the problem of lack of a support system around entrepreneurship. Even in a country like Australia, there are less than 20% female CEOs or senior management officials. At the conference I mentioned earlier, there was one other female besides myself. So, entrepreneurship for women is really about empowerment and valuing oneself. It is also to build your identity. When you are a woman and get married and settle down, you sort of lose your identity because you look after everybody else, except yourself. You are the last person you think of and that too, if you have the time. That identity is really important whether it is in a relationship or marriage or anywhere.
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