National Business Incubation Association; Your source for knowledge and networks in business incubation

One on one: Coaches and mentors offer strategies to help start-up companies score.

by Bridget McCrea

April 2001

We've all been through the drill of getting a new job. After a hiring process that probes your every accomplishment and foible, you launch into on-the-job training. That involves some general introduction to the company and job, but individuals teach you most of what you really need to know. From your boss to the casual colleague in the lunch room, each person fills you in on the particulars, whether it is how to execute a procedure or how not to get executed in a staff meeting.

The process of incubating companies should not be all that different. You're working with young companies to develop their key employees – in this case, the ones responsible for the very infrastructure of the business. Some general training and networking will be helpful, no doubt. To get them fully up to speed and put the fine points on their operations, though, you have to incorporate more personalized mentoring and coaching into their itineraries. It's work intensive, yes. It means added discipline for your companies, yes. But it can mean the difference between success and failure.

Coaching and mentoring can be viewed as two discrete processes. Coaching has to do with building an individual's personal skills, from communication to management style to problem-solving. Mentoring, on the other hand, is the passing along of one person's knowledge to another. It is person-to-person teaching that is much more job-specific – the mentor has experience in the same field or discipline as the client and can fast-track the learning curve. In the business incubation setting, coaching and mentoring meld into one process more often than not.

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Keywords: coaching clients, effective communication, mentoring program, presentation skills

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