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Mentorship: It’s not a destination. It’s a journey.

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How can startup CEOs benefit from a mentorship? How can mentors support entrepreneurs? Why participate in a mentoring program? How do you forge an effective mentoring relationship? What are the roles, attitudes, expectations and methods of mentoring? Last Tuesday, 40 entrepreneurs, mentors (and investors) attended the first after-work session, co-organized by the BusinessMentoring program and Silicon Luxembourg, the leading magazine for startup news, in order to better understand the inner workings of a mentoring relationship.

A nurturing relationship

To introduce the event and the concept of mentoring, Rachel Gaessler, Head of BusinessMentoring, a program created and launched by the Chamber of Commerce, shared her vision and how she set up the program in 2010. “We decided to implement this concept in Luxembourg after having done a worldwide market study, and after having implemented a pilot project with the ‘young’ entrepreneurs of the 1, 2, 3, GO inter-regional competition.”

So far, about 135  CEOs (mentees and mentors included) have participated in the program with a success rate of  92% in terms of survival of enterprises managed by the mentees. Regarding the qualitative achievements, most of the mentees who have finished the program agreed that the mentorship taught them how to better understand their leadership style and business goals, and helped them make significant progress in their self-management, leadership and negotiation skills. They have pointed out that the exchanges with the mentors helped them improve their decision-making process and step back from their business activities in order to develop a long-term vision,” added Gaessler.

“The main goal of the BusinessMentoring program is to positively impact the growth and survival rate of small and medium sized enterprises based in Luxembourg and to boost their development while encouraging the entrepreneurs to manage their own learning in order to maximize their potential and improve their leadership skills, she explained.

A mentorship involves a time commitment and a big effort must be made by both the mentee and mentor in order to  build a strong, beneficial, supportive and nurturing relationship. The BusinessMentoring program takes place over a 12 or 18-month period.

The inner workings of a mentoring relationship

A mentorship is rooted in the values of trust, honesty, transparency, mutual commitment (i.e. no conflicts of interest or financial interests) and confidentiality.

Mentor Dan Arendt confirmed that these rules are critical and explained why it’s crucial that the mentor have no financial interest. In his point of view, that is effectively what makes the role of a mentor differ so greatly with that of an investor, a coach or a consultant.  Arendt has been supporting and mentoring entrepreneurs for more than 15 years. He definitely places the human factor at the heart of the relationship and encourages all mentees to be transparent and to share any information with the mentor which could help the mentor to advise and the mentee to achieve his goals. Arendt shared that his mentorship relationships often evolve into long-lasting friendships.

“I get along very well with Dan. There is nothing formal. If I have a question I can call or send him a message at any time. And vice versa,” said Oswald de Riemaecker, founder of the startup ContinuousPHP. Like the other co-founders of the company, I have more of a tech background than a business one. I made the choice to be guided by a mentor in order to improve my ability to implement strategic decisions and grow the company.” 

“I met Dan following a pitch that I made in front of several mentors. And it was then that Dan chose to mentor me. The selection process  was very simple and effective. Dan has conretely helped us set up the governance of our company and has shared KPIs.”

If you are interested in joining the BusinessMentoring program as a mentor or a mentee, please check the eligibility criteria and register at BusinessMentoring’s website.

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