Tired of facing tough business decisions alone? Feel like you could use some guidance? Maybe someone has already suggested that you work with a mentor, business coach or consultant. But what exactly does each of these professionals do? "Business coaches and consultants focus on business growth, whereas mentors help you grow as an entrepreneur," says Yves Nicole, a businessman who works as a business analyst and solutions architect for National Bank.
Mr. Nicole is also a member of the mentorship program offered by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de la Rive-Sud (South Shore Board of Trade – CCIRS). According to him, nothing prevents entrepreneurs from hiring a marketing coach and an HR management consultant at the same time, while working with a mentor who can guide them and help them find solutions on their own.
Rina Marchand, Senior Director, Content Development and Innovation at the Fondation de l'entrepreneurship, also believes that the roles of these three experts are complementary. "A mentor will share his wisdom, whereas a business coach or consultant will generally focus on providing expertise. The mentor's job is to help you be a better leader, make better decisions, challenge yourself and be a better communicator—in other words, help you become a better entrepreneur."
Accelerating the development of entrepreneurs fosters long-term business growth and success. That is why the Fondation de l’entrepreneurship created Réseau M, a network for entrepreneurs that brings together over 80 organizations, including CCIRS, and covers all 17 regions of Quebec. Wherever you are in Quebec, you will find a Réseau M centre or mentorship program close to you. Accessibility is key, as mentors normally meet with their mentees in person. Videoconferences and calls are for exceptional circumstances only.
Réseau M uses a thorough selection process to find the best mentor for each mentee. "We do our best to pair up mentees with mentors who don't work in the same field in order to avoid conflicts of interest and advice that focuses on know-how," explains Ms. Marchand. "Mentors generously give of their time. They are there to listen to entrepreneurs, who often feel lonely and would like to have someone to talk to—someone who faced similar challenges in the past."
Danick Venne, CEO of GEOMAP GIS America was Yves Nicole's mentee. His company specializes in solutions and services that integrate the innovative concepts of geomatics and building information modelling. "Until 2010, I was a minority shareholder. When I bought out the other shareholders, I realized I couldn't get the support I needed from the people I knew. It's not like I had family or friends who were entrepreneurs. Not many people do. That's why I joined the CCIRS mentorship program."
In his mentor he found someone he could talk to. They met once a month for about two years. "Whenever I came to Yves with an idea, we would look at it from different angles together and I would come up with solutions I hadn't thought of at all. He never handed me the answers on a platter."
Mentors want to make sure their mentees have a long career and maybe even go on to start other businesses. "Our goal is to teach them to think and act like businesspeople. We want them to learn to challenge themselves and take calculated risks. And the best way we can do that is by helping them figure things out for themselves," says Yves Nicole.
Danick Venne admits that even today, whenever he has to deal with an issue, he remembers the conversations he had with his mentor. "When I feel the stress creep up on me, I always remember Yves telling me that what causes you stress is the unknown. So I do my best to be on top of things and the stress is gone." It's a bit as if his mentor were still with him.
Pierre-Paul Gingras and Laurent Bourdeau, Rencontre avec un mentor , JFD éditions, 2013.
Le mentor, a magazine published by Réseau M, the mentorship network for entrepreneurs created by the Fondation de l'entrepreneurship.
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