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FAQ: Entrepreneur Mentoring Program

FAQ MENTEES

What can mentoring do for me as an entrepreneur?

Mentors are a source of guidance and motivation. They share their own entrepreneurial experience and work closely with mentees to help them sharpen key reflexes, including:

  • Reasoning and analytical skills: The ability to develop a 360-degree view of the impacts and issues at stake in a given scenario
  • Audacity: The “chutzpah” to assess and take on greater and greater challenges and a reasonable level of risk to turn your ideas into action, to strengthen your self-confidence and to push beyond your own limits
  • Critical thinking: Tapping into your “inner voice”
  • Resilience: Having what it takes to bounce back – and learn – from setbacks
  • Stress management: An outlet for openly expressing your fears and doubts so they don’t take over and a means of alleviating the feeling of being alone
  • Networking savvy: Understanding the complementary resources and necessities for entrepreneurial success.

Will I be able to directly leverage my mentor’s network of contacts?

No. Networking isn’t part of the Réseau M mentorship program per se because it can create a sense of accountability between the mentor and mentee with regard to the referral or proposed referral. The result can be a real or perceived conflict of interest.

Can mentors and mentees share their client lists?

No. This could create a conflict of interest. A code of ethics has been developed for mentor and mentee conduct to prevent such situations from occurring.

 

Why should I get a mentor if there’s nothing wrong with my business? If I need to talk to someone, I can just make an appointment with a therapist.

Actually, the best time to improve your business is when things are going well. If you wait until there’s a problem, it’s often too late to fix it or ask for help – and most experts act in a consulting capacity. Sure, you can see a therapist, but Réseau M offers you an opportunity to talk to someone outside your usual circle who is not a friend, family member, employee or subcontractor – a volunteer who is completely impartial and who has been right where you are now. You can “talk shop” and take advantage of their insights to become a better entrepreneur.

Are the program fees eligible as a training expense under provincial law (i.e., the 1% training obligation)?

No. Mentoring is a way for entrepreneurs to share information and experience. It is not a course or a workshop. Mentors are not teachers and do not use a set curriculum. They adapt their services to suit you and your specific needs. That said, Réseau M regularly organizes activities for members of the mentorship community (awareness, professional development, etc.) that do meet Quebec training requirements.

If my mentor works in a field other than mine, how can they help me?

Your mentor can listen to you and ask key questions to help shed light on your situation, no matter what sectors you both operate in. In fact, based on our experience, it is actually easier and better for a mentor from another field to work with a mentee. The core focus of the mentoring relationship is on soft skills. When the mentor and mentee operate in the same sector, the relationship tends to veer toward hard skills instead, which falls outside the purview of the program. What’s more, the fact that both people work in different industries is extra reassurance that there won’t be a conflict of interest or competition concerns to overcome.

How can a mentor’s involvement help me hone my skills?

In concrete terms, a mentor will:

  • Listen and ask questions
  • Help you look at problems from another angle
  • Support you as you come up with possible solutions
  • Provide encouragement and motivation
  • Share critical insight
  • Give feedback on your performance and mindset.

Basically, a mentor is there to cultivate your existing entrepreneurial drive. As a mentee, you need to be open to learning new things and growing as a person and a business professional. Throughout the process you, and you alone, will be responsible for any actions you undertake and any decisions you make. Your role as a mentee is to:

  • Listen and ask questions
  • Help you look at problems from another angle
  • Support you as you come up with possible solutions 
  • Provide encouragement and motivation
  • Share critical insight
  • Give feedback on your performance and mindset. 

I already have plenty of critics – why do I need one more?

There is a difference between negative and constructive criticism. If the people criticizing you have an interest in your business, there is an inherent bias in what they have to say. Mentors, on the other hand, are impartial in their input, precisely because they have nothing at stake.

How can mentoring help my business?

By making you a better business owner! Réseau M is committed to giving you the tools to take your business to new heights. By focusing on YOU, we are convinced that you’ll have what you need to build on these skills and tap into your innate drive and determination to move forward with other business ventures as well.

Is my mentor bound by a confidentiality agreement, similar to a doctor-patient relationship?

Yes. Both you and your mentor are required to sign and abide by a code of ethics. What you say stays between the two of you and should not be shared with anyone else at any time.

Will my mentor need to speak to my colleagues and associates as well?

No. Your mentor is there for you and you alone. It is essential that what you say in your confidential meetings remains between the two of you.

How do I know that a mentor has what it takes to be an effective coach?

Good coaches and good mentors are similar in their desire to reach out to other people and help them develop their potential. But it’s important to realize that mentoring and coaching are not the same thing. Mentoring is mostly about transferring knowledge from one person to another by helping mentees find their own answers and listening to what they say – and what they don’t say. Coaching, in comparison, is more “instructional” in nature and is a service provided for a fee. Mentors help make you aware of what you are unconsciously doing (or not doing) and how that can affect your performance. Remember that mentors pick their mentees, and mentees do have a say in who their mentor is. That being said, you may not necessarily hit it off with the first mentor you are matched with. If so, you can ask for a new mentor.  Click here for more information on the difference between a mentor, a coach and a consultant.

Will my mentor have the same level of skills as I have?

Whether you’re starting, consolidating or growing your business, or laying the groundwork for new leadership to take over the reins, your mentor will have a suitable entrepreneurial background to support your endeavours.

Will my mentor have access to my business’s books?

Your meetings with your mentor shouldn’t be as bogged down with numbers as your meetings with your accountant or banker. However, once you have established the requisite trust, if you would like to “talk turkey” with your mentor, feel free to do so. But you are under no obligation to share any hard numbers with them if you do not wish to.

How effective is entrepreneur mentoring?

Several sources from around the world show that 70% of small and medium-sized business owners who have a mentor make it past the notorious five-year mark (double the success rate of non-mentored entrepreneurs).

https://www.theupsstore.com/about/pressroom/small-business-mentoring-month-2014#sthash.6XS8IVYO.dpuf
http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/jun/24/failing-fast-uk-startup-culture

How can I tell if the mentoring relationship is working the way it should?

Réseau M has established a qualitative assessment chart to measure mentorship outcomes. This chart is used to evaluate mentors’ contributions and determine how the mentor-mentee relationship is progressing. After the first three months (the “getting to know you” phase), an initial evaluation will be done. A second evaluation will follow at the six-month mark, once the relationship is firmly established.

Why are there program fees to pay when all of the mentors are volunteers?

The Fondation de l’entrepreneurship has been running a mentorship program for entrepreneurs since 2000. The program is carefully designed and structured, more so that any other initiatives of this nature. The corresponding fees include annual membership with Réseau M. This is a fixed rate and represents only a portion of the actual cost of providing access to one of our many high-calibre mentors. Most of these fees go to covering administrative expenses, mentor training, the development of content and best practices for Réseau M members, promotional initiatives, and errors and omissions insurance coverage for our mentors. By joining the mentorship program, mentees are entitled to attend several activities for free or at a reduced rate. Mentees may have additional annual fees to pay as well to support local points of service. Local budgets are used to cover concrete pairing-related expenses, ensure the program runs smoothly, answer your questions, promote the program at the regional level and so forth.

I would like to figure out if my business idea or venture has legs. Can a mentor help me do this?   

No. The Réseau M mentorship program does not get involved in the pre-startup phase. A business must already be up and running or, at the very least, at “day zero” of its operations.

Can my mentor challenge my business plan?

Let’s remember that mentorship lasts one or, in most cases, two years. So it’s only natural that mentors will get into the nitty-gritty of your day-to-day operations. As an entrepreneur, you may be having second thoughts about some of your actions and how to bring your business plan to fruition (as opposed to how to develop it in the first place). Mentors can help you frame these questions and find the answers you are looking for.

If mentors aren’t supposed to tell me what to do, what exactly do they contribute?

Your mentor won’t provide you with step-by-step instructions and show you the one and only way to move forward (at any rate, it would be a mistake to think there is only one right solution out there for any situation). Their role is to prompt you to think about what you’re doing – and, sometimes even more important, about what you’re failing to do. They will ask you a slew of questions, listen to your answers and queries, restructure your thoughts as appropriate and provide you with invaluable feedback. They will be attentive to both your verbal input and what you are saying “between the lines.”

I’m dealing with a specific problem with my business. Can I be paired with a mentor who is qualified to solve it for me?

That’s not the job of a mentor – that’s the job of a consultant. Mentors are people you can refer to over a period of several months, even several years, and their area of expertise is broad. They will ask you questions and help you analyze what you are doing. They will guide you as you determine your precise requirements and expectations when it comes to finding an expert who can accommodate your needs.

I’m working on my business venture and/or building my company on a part-time basis. Am I eligible for Réseau M mentorship?

Yes, it is possible, as long as your goal is to devote your full-time attention to your business somewhere down the road. Your mentor will even help you in this regard by getting you to consider what you are doing and not doing.

If I eventually come to the realization that mentoring is simply not for me, can I withdraw from the program?

If you wish to put an end to your mentor-mentee relationship because it is falling short of your expectations, Réseau M and the Fondation de l’entrepreneurship have a refund policy in place. For more details, click here.

My associate and I would like to take advantage of the services of a mentor. Can we have the same mentor and meet together, all three of us?

Mentorship is about establishing a one-on-one relationship, either through a mentor-mentee dyad or through a group where a mentor provides guidance to several mentees who are not associates or competitors. It is important that mentors not be forced into playing a mediation role or settling disputes between colleagues. It is in each associate’s best interests to have their own personal mentor so they can express themselves openly, free of scrutiny and judgment. And individual mentoring can even shed light on the underlying motivations of working with one or more business partners.

 

FAQ MENTORS

Does it cost anything to become a Réseau M mentor?

No, there are no membership dues for becoming a mentor, although some of the activities you may wish to attend, such as our annual symposium (Rendez-vous Réseau M), involve a registration fee. As a mentor, you are entitled to a special discount on any such events.

Who can be a mentor?

We concentrate on recruiting active and retired entrepreneurs (including solopreneurs) with five or more years of experience helming their own business. That said, the merits of every application we receive are carefully reviewed, in most cases by a team of mentors from the point of service indicated in the registration form. Main evaluation criteria include:

  • Entrepreneurial experience (5+ years)
  • Business management experience
  • Volunteer and mentor experience
  • Reputation (credibility, integrity, trustworthiness)
  • Motivation for becoming a mentor
  • Availability
  • Ability to listen, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be open to their ideas (non-directive)
  • Ability to communicate in a clear, concise and articulate way
  • Personal values

Will I receive training and official accreditation?

After your application has been accepted by your local point of service, you will be invited to attend a mandatory Réseau M workshop (Introduction to Mentoring – Is Mentoring for Me?). Once you have passed this requirement, you will be officially recognized as a mentor. Other workshops and accreditation programs have also been set up to help you continue to tweak your skills as a mentor.

I’m already mentoring other entrepreneurs. What advantage is there to doing the same thing through Réseau M?

Réseau M is the Quebec government’s preferred partner for entrepreneur mentoring. Official mentorship accreditation from Réseau M carries with it a full range of advantages:

  • Skills development workshops, free of charge
  • Errors and omissions insurance specifically for mentors, free of charge
  • Association with a leading entrepreneur mentoring network, featuring a simple yet carefully structured framework designed to facilitate the mentoring process (code of values and ethics, privacy agreement, ombudsman, etc.)
  • Access to an extensive community of entrepreneur mentors so you can interact with your peers, learn from best practices and maximize your mentorship potential
  • Opportunity to build on your mentoring experience using a digital platform that lets you tap into the latest news from the Réseau M network, stay in touch with mentors and mentees, develop your skills on an ongoing basis and more!
  • Volunteer recognition program to honour mentors for their outstanding efforts and contributions.

How many hours am I expected to invest in the program a month? What would my total annual commitment work out to?

That’s up to you! Generally speaking, mentees meet with their mentor once a month for about an hour, although initially these meetings may be scheduled more frequently to help establish a rapport. The typical lifespan of a mentor-mentee dyad is one to two years, but there no set limit in place. As for the skills development workshops we offer, each one is about three hours long.

If you’d like to deepen your involvement, there are several other options available to you. You can become a chief mentor or workshop lecturer, for example, or you can sign up for a joint development committee to focus on a specific aspect of the network (e.g., promotion).