At the core of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unrelenting commitment to supporting entrepreneurs at every stage with the knowledge and tools necessary to grow their companies. The organization offers a structured mentorship program, and its members also participate in community-based mentorship initiatives. The goal is high-level leadership and personal development within a set timeframe. The EO Madrid chapter shared how it takes that timeframe to a new level through its speed mentoring program:
As a startup entrepreneur, you need solid advice to navigate your new business terrain, but it's hard to know who to trust. Many people in your immediate circle have a vested interest in your company or idea, and therefore aren't ideally positioned to offer an objective viewpoint or help to pinpoint your purpose. So where can you turn?
Mentoring empowers entrepreneurs to connect with trusted advisors who are not involved in your company in any way. This detachment provides mentors with a unique stance from which to spot strategic weaknesses or areas primed for improvement. By sharing experiences from their personal journeys, mentors can help startup entrepreneurs detour around pitfalls to make informed decisions that benefit a business.
EO members in Madrid, Spain, have inaugurated a new event to help startup entrepreneurs experience the benefits of mentorship. At each speed mentorship event, several EO members--all successful entrepreneurs--offer free, 10-minute mentoring sessions.
"We started this initiative to promote entrepreneurship in Madrid and support new entrepreneurs who may be facing challenges that we ourselves have previously confronted," said René de Jong, president of EO Madrid. "We find that these short sessions are beneficial. People who attend have expressed that they are satisfied with the answers they can find during a short session when we share our knowledge and experiences gained from many years of running a company."
Justo Mármol, Founder and CEO of Translog Overseas, is an EO Madrid member and volunteer mentor.
"It's fascinating to meet young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs and learn from them as we discuss the challenges in their company," Mármol said. "I've coached young entrepreneurs with information about importing specific products, ideal ways to organize a team, and how to focus on a certain project and make it profitable."
Virginia Rodríguez, an EO Madrid member and Founder and CEO of Bogarti, is another volunteer mentor.
"I've been pleasantly surprised by how many people we can affect through this brilliant initiative of speed mentoring," Rodríguez said. "At first, I didn't believe it was possible in just 10 minutes to have someone explain their project, describe the specific challenge they are facing, and for me to guide them toward a solution. But I've found it extremely effective. By using short speed-mentoring sessions, we can mentor and help many people in just one or two hours."
Rodríguez also noted that it's enriching to meet new entrepreneurs who explain intriguing projects with energy that's contagious. "It leaves me wondering who is more fortunate: the student who receives instruction or the teacher who gets to teach," she said.
With her expertise in offline marketing, Rodríguez shares innovative ideas with entrepreneurs who are looking to build their businesses. "I suggest creative ideas to reach more clients depending on the sector, and give examples of offline marketing that they never considered before."
"I also share ideas to automate and delegate tasks so they can focus on what they do best and rely on other people who have a different skill set for bureaucratic and administrative tasks," she continued.
As experienced leaders who are busy running their own businesses, both Mármol and Rodríguez understand the importance of giving back to the entrepreneurial community through mentoring.
"I believe it's fundamental for entrepreneurs with experience to mentor young startup entrepreneurs," Rodríguez said. "Why? Because our years of experience can translate into a one-minute message that may save new entrepreneurs from all those lost battles that taught us this lesson. Our failures can help simplify things for young entrepreneurs, so they don't have to endure the same struggles."
Mármol concurs. "This project enables us to give back what we have received in the past from our society."
Another driving factor for Mármol is his belief that Madrid presents a challenging environment for entrepreneurship.
"Compared with other entrepreneurial environments, from my point of view, Madrid is not an easy place to start a new company," said Mármol. "There are several barriers: It's an expensive city to operate in, the social security cost of having employees is high, and our country's educational system prepares students to be good employees rather than run companies themselves."
That's even more reason to help inspire people to take initiative, conquer their fears and dare to take their idea to the next level.
"As thriving business owners, we have a responsibility to share our knowledge like we would have appreciated receiving others' knowledge when we were starting out," Rodríguez explained. "And it's bidirectional: Experience is very valuable, but connecting with fresh points of view and new ideas can help more experienced entrepreneurs gain new insights."