Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks and David Brophy, professors at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, have conducted a survey to detail what makes a mentorship program successful. The study surveyed 33 private and university entrepreneurial programs. The results indicate that programs are successful when mentors and mentees work together to develop business skills, rather than assume individuals are born with entrepreneurial skills.
The study seeks to encourage collaboration in order to measure best practices for entrepreneurial mentorship. The project was co-funded by a Kauffman Foundation grant, Thomas Jensen of Enterprise Future Network, Melanie Milovac of Insead, and Evgeny Kagan of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“This is an important finding because people who have a learning mindset — who believe that skills can be learned versus being born with an inherent ability — appear more satisfied with the entire process,” says Sanchez-Burks, professor of management and organizations at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. “And satisfied people tend to stay engaged.”
Additionally, the survey showed that a successful program requires monitoring by administrators to manage their mentor-mentee groups, formal training, and to ensure interactions with the mentee are sufficient. The study also indicated that mentees would prefer selecting the mentor rather than the program selecting someone for them. In turn, non-university programs are more successful than university programs as far as training, number of interactions, and mentor experience levels are concerned.
“We’re finding that keeping mentors and startup founders engaged takes a lot of TLC and hands-on attention,” says Brophy, professor of finance at Ross and director of the Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance. “There’s a lot of inconsistency in how that’s done, and it’s because these programs all kind of sprung up organically across the country. They’ve done some good things and not-good things, so this is an effort to break across those silos and learn from each other.”