Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

Mentor Functions for Novice Entrepreneurs

Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

Mentor Functions for Novice Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt


For the past few years, we have implemented programs to support novice entrepreneurs in the years following the starting of their business. One of the processes proposed involves pairing up a novice entrepreneur with an experienced entrepreneur, who provides advice and ways of thinking to help the novice avoid costly and even fatal mistakes (St-Jean et Audet, Under press; Sullivan, 2000). For example, the American SCORE (1) program, founded in the seventies and funded by Small Business Administration (SBA), supported more than eight million small business managers through its network of over 12,000 volunteer mentors. In Europe, other similar initiatives exist such as that supported by the Business Link in England, the Mentor Eget Foretag program in Sweden or France Initiative (in France), with nearly 5,000 volunteer mentors, to name just a few of these programs. Some studies suggest that novice entrepreneurs may benefit from many types of different outcomes, including cognitive learning (new knowledge and skills, improved business vision and opportunity recognition), affective learning (reduced solitude, improved self-efficacy and self-image), new contacts, and even changes in the SME (increased sales or improved profitability) (Bisk, 2002; Nandram, 2003; St-Jean, 2008; Wikholm et al., 2005). Although outcomes for the novice entrepreneur are better known, mentor roles helping their development are practically unknown to this day.

Yet, scientific literature on mentoring in other contexts has explored mentor roles on numerous occasions, particularly in large organizations where an employee identified as having potential (protege (2)) is matched with another in a hierarchical position (mentor). These mentor functions even constitute a measure of the mentoring received by the protege. The present study will attempt to bridge this gap by documenting mentor functions in entrepreneurs within the context of the business mentoring network of the Fondation de l'entrepreneurship. To do so, a review of the scientific literature used to define the concept will first be presented. Since this literature has not offered enough details on the study's subject, an exploratory analysis was necessary and will then be exposed. Subsequently, the entire confirmatory study, which proves the empirical validity of mentor functions, will be presented. Finally, results will be discussed as well as avenues for future research.


Mentor functions in large organizations

Kram (1985) suggests that mentors plays two main functions towards the protege: a career-related function and a psychological function. The first one includes everything touching on career advancement such as sponsorship, publicising/visibility, coaching, protection, and challenge setting. The psychological function includes elements linked to the development of a sense of competency and self-confidence such as role model, acceptance/confirmation, advice giving, and friendship. Many studies have used these function with much success (see for example Noe (1988) or Allen and Eby (2004)). They have been tested more than once and the invariance of these factors between male and female groups has been demonstrated, which confirms that the two-main-function mentor function model posses the same significance for both sexes (Tepper et al., 1996). Also based on Kram's work (1985), Scandura (1992) conducted an exploratory factorial analysis and observed that the role model item in Kram's psychological function is a distinct function from the psychological or career-related function. Other studies confirm the distinct nature of the role model function and propose three main mentor functions (see for example Scandura and Ragins (1993), Scandura and Williams (2001), Pellegrini and Scandura (2005), or Bouquillon et al. (2005)).

However, subsequent studies based on Kram's work are all deductive in nature. Yet, in cases where an inductive approach is used, results differ. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.