Entrepreneurial mentoring: A springboard for high-potential companies
At Societe Generale Private Banking, we offer bespoke solutions and a personalised banking experience to support our entrepreneur clients. In 2013 we formed a partnership with the French Institute of Entrepreneurial Mentoring (Institut du mentorat entrepreneurial — IME). We spoke to Dominique Restino, IME founder.
Dominique, you are the founder of the IME. What’s the concept behind it and why was it created?
I imported the concept of entrepreneurial mentoring from Quebec into France in 2007 and applied it to high-growth companies from the outset. At the time there weren’t any such schemes to support businesses that had already passed the first growth milestone. Being an entrepreneur, I could see right away how a programme like this could have helped me grow as an entrepreneur, and ultimately grow my businesses. The idea is to create the conditions for mentored entrepreneurs to benefit from the experience of a legitimate mentor who has a recognised and established career. The IME is an individual mentoring programme aimed at accelerating and securing the growth of high-potential SME/SMIs(1) by sharing experience among entrepreneurs. It caters exclusively to high-growth businesses (more than two years in existence, annual revenues of over €1 million and more than 10 employees). The goal is to contribute to the creation of more ISEs(2) in France by helping to accelerate the growth of SMEs. Based on the results of IME Paris Île-de-France, the French government asked us to roll out the programme to the rest of the country. That’s how in 2011, IME France — of which I am the chairman — was founded. So far, some 1,000 entrepreneurs have been mentored by nearly 300 mentors. We are all over France and set up over 80 mentor-mentee relationships every year. The average annual revenues of the companies joining the programme is €4.1 million, with an average headcount of 36 employees. It’s not unusual for mentored businesses to double their turnover in the year following the 18-month mentoring period. And over the long term, companies that have taken part in the programme see their annual revenues grow by an average of 25%.
What do you look for in mentors and mentees? How is the relationship formed and the interactions organised?
The mentor — more often than not the director of an ISE — and the mentee are chosen after a rigorous selection process. The mentee must submit an application and appear before an admissions committee where we try to establish who would be the most appropriate mentor. To make the pairing more relatable for the mentee, the mentor must be, or have been, a company owner-manager or a major shareholder of said company. They impart their experience, behaviour and interpersonal skills on a voluntary basis. To make sure the mentee can place their complete faith in their mentor, the latter may not invest in the mentee’s company for a period of two years following the mentoring relationship, and may not come from the same industry. The mentee, who must be the decision-maker with regards to running the business, does not go to the mentor for advice but for experience on how to work on their mindset as an entrepreneur. They go to be challenged on the strategic choices they make, which must never be “dictated” to them by their mentor. The mentee is guided towards making their own decisions after a series of questions posed to them by their mentor.
Why was a partnership formed with Societe Generale?
Societe Generale is a long-standing partner, and we have built extremely strong ties with its managers and its teams. Societe Generale is a member of the IME family. It has supported us financially since 2013. As I like to say, without partners like Societe Generale we wouldn’t exist. Other than the financial backing, the Bank regularly puts us in touch with potential mentors — we are always on the lookout for experienced mentors to guide mentees. We need YOU! And of course, the mentors and mentees we introduce to them at our functions can benefit from the expertise of the Bank’s private banking and entrepreneur teams.
You are also Chairman of the Paris CCI. Is there any interaction between the IME and the Paris CCI?
All my life, I have worked in partnership, and for years I have strived to create a mentoring support structure for entrepreneurs in concert with the public and private sectors. Today we have IME France and IME Paris Île-de-France, which is part of the Paris CCI. Since the IME was created, I have always worked to foster interaction between the Paris CCI’s different support bodies. It made sense to build connections between the departments in charge of business transfers, financing, international affairs, and sustainable development... and of course the numerous training institutions we work with.
(1) Small- and medium-sized enterprises and small- and medium-sized industries (SME/SMIs) are companies with fewer than 250 employees, and annual revenues of below €50 million, or a balance sheet total no higher than €43 million.
(2) Intermediate-sized enterprises (ISE) are companies with between 250 and 4,999 employees, and annual revenues not exceeding €1.5 billion, or a balance sheet total no higher than €2 billion. A company with fewer than 250 employees, but with more than €50 million in revenues and a balance sheet total over €43 million, is also considered an ISE.
Further reading on the Institut du Mentorat Entrepreneurial can be found at the institute's website.
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