Content Type, Mentoring | July 28, 2016
Becoming a mentor to a young entrepreneur is a vocation in itself. The role is crucial for an entrepreneur’s development and requires true commitment on behalf of the mentor. When speaking of mentor commitment, we immediately think of Marc Poulin. He is dedicated, always ready to listen and deeply involved in the world of start-ups. Mr. Poulin has invested a great deal of himself as a mentor. With four active mentor and mentee relationships with the Futurpreneur Canada, Mr. Poulin is definitely a serial mentor! It gives us great pleasure to present his experience and mentoring philosophy. Here is the portrait of a passionate and dedicated mentor.
When you review Marc Poulin’s professional path, it looks like he was predestined to become a mentor for young entrepreneurs. He became hooked on start-ups very early on. This love story began in Latin America.
Initially, his mission was to start up a cell phone company in Brazil. Working for Brazilian shareholders, he established a joint company with a group of Canadians. With this local experience under his belt, and speaking Portuguese fluently, he was mandated to establish a Brazilian presence for a U.S. telecommunications firm. During this second project, Mr. Poulin worked on deploying a growth-through-acquisition strategy, shepherding through three transactions for the firm. Events continued and a third, similar mandate was offered him, this time in Caracas, Venezuela.
This experience was not only highly valuable, it also was the source for an entrepreneurial lightning bolt that struck Mr. Poulin. When he spoke to us about his career, his passion for the company start-up phase was obvious. “Creating something from nothing, without having too many procedures, really, “Get it done” was the mantra. I loved that,” he shared.
Back in Montreal, he joined a small company with 15 employees in the field of renewable energies, as vice-president for business development. For a decade, he helped this company succeed; it was then sold to German interests.
During a brief pause in his career, Marc continued to feel attracted to the unique energy of start-ups. He also felt that he wanted to transmit his knowledge and share his experience with the next generation of young entrepreneurs. “With my grey hair, I must have seen a lot of things,” he said.
So, this was the time that he made the leap and officially became a mentor. He was glad to return to the entrepreneurial passion and visionary energy felt in start-up companies.
What characterizes Marc’s mentoring is without a doubt his orientation toward action and tactical deployment. “It’s hard for entrepreneurs to see the concrete actions needed to meet the next objective,” he explained. “They have to understand that success comes in stages and by actions. You have to unravel all that to help the entrepreneur.”
He works on bringing his mentees to the logic of planning, and concrete actions. As he explained, he specializes in breaking down a business project into key steps that will lead to the realization of company objectives. “I ask them, what choices can you make today, that will take you to there?”
His training as an engineer and project management experience are valuable for young entrepreneurs finding it hard to structure their project during its initial stages.
Marc’s philosophy is clear and lucid: flexibility is needed to correctly help young entrepreneurs in a start-up. It is essential to be able to adapt to their needs and the crucial steps they face at a specific moment. “Every session is different! I ask myself how I can help them that day.”
Once, one of his mentees had to prepare a presentation of a project for a jury. That became the priority. So the session dealt with preparations for this presentation, with the objective of equipping the entrepreneur. “I said to him, well, now I’m going to ask you some disagreeable questions!”
Hearing that, you really feel that Marc’s approach to mentoring is full of compassion for the entrepreneur. Even when it is crucial to raise certain difficult subjects, you really feel the helper behind the mentor.
So, what is the secret ingredient of this flexibility? Simply stated: listening! In all his mentoring pairs, Marc places great importance on listening. He believes mentors must be excellent listeners so that they can figure out the needs of the entrepreneur, and adapt to them.
As for mentees, their capacity to listen is also essential for transmitting knowledge and experience. “Everybody follows a different path, and I think they are all brilliant! Some aim further than others and some have a vision more directed toward a social vocation,” he explained.
It is clear that Marc believes in the effectiveness of mentoring. For him, a mentor is an external person who can give entrepreneurs a different point-of-view about their business. A point-of-view that family, friends or a spouse can never offer. So he advises entrepreneurs to not fear mentoring. It isn’t invasive and no one meddles in the company. The mentor does not have a mandate to manage the company instead of the entrepreneur; he is there to offer a different perspective.
To future mentors, Marc Poulin would like to tell them to be confident about their experience and to not doubt themselves. “Just by being available for mentees, that’s already a lot! You have to believe in yourself! Sometimes you tell yourself that you don’t know the sector and that you can’t really help them. That’s wrong. You can make all the difference.”
Marc is still young, despite his impressive resume. In the future, he hopes to return to working in the start-up sector. For now, he is completely devoted to his mentoring pairings, but it is clear that the future has other entrepreneurial mandates in store for him.
Highly committed to mentoring, Marc would also like to create bridges between different mentoring groups. He believes strongly that the mentoring community is very important. He would like mentoring to become a real community of practice in which people could discuss the different problems related to start-ups. There is nothing else to say, Marc Poulin is clearly an inspiring serial mentor.