Coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs: more definitions won't work

Ruud G.M. Koopman

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1280 Downloads (Pure)


Since entrepreneurship is essential to economic growth, there is a keen interest in the developing effective support programs for entrepreneurship. Within these programs, the support given to the entrepreneur as a person is key. Unfortunately, authors use various labels and definitions when referring to the personal support of the entrepreneur - the most wellknown labels being coaching and mentoring. To map out this conceptual battlefield, we compare a number of definitions and streams in the literature to put personal support in perspective. Already mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, personal support has been around for centuries, leading to a large variety of definitions, theories and methodologies. Nonetheless the literature about personal support of entrepreneurs is rather scarce. Only since the start of this century the amount of publications is growing, of which most deal with developmental interactions. Also the use of the terms coaching and mentoring can be very confusing, as some authors use them interchangeably while, others emphasize the differences. This conceptual unclarity makes is very difficult to measure the effectiveness of personal support. The elements that most researchers use in describing personal support are the agenda: i.e. the amount of control that is being used by the supporter, and the role, i.e. the focus of the support. The agenda can vary from a directive way of support to a non-directive way of support. The role can vary from focusing on the business problems or skills needed to focusing on personal development or personal growth. These two dimensions leads to a matrix of four types of support, which is called problem solving, solution oriented, focus on insight, and personal focus (Haan & Burger, 2007). In total 15 top management, entrepreneurship and psychology journals have been searched for coaching and mentoring papers. They have been refined on the use of coaching or mentoring for entrepreneurial purposes and the description of these terms. Then these descriptions were scored on the two dimensions; role and agenda. In total 1,116 papers were found in these journals. After a selecting on abstract, 71 papers were left for scoring. 51 of these papers had a complete description of either coaching mentoring, or both. In most papers we did not observe much difference in the description of coaching and mentoring. This confirms that the difference between coaching and mentoring is not clear in the entrepreneurship literature. Although most of the support is described as focusing on the development of skills or the business, some of the support is described as focusing on the personal growth. A few papers describe personal support as a free, nondirective sort of support, while the majority is described as a rather directive sort of support. For further research it would be interesting to see if the different sorts of support also have is any difference in results.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2013
EventRENT XXVII - Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business 2013: Entrepreneurship, Institutions and Competitiveness - Vilnius, Lithuania
Duration: 20 Nov 201322 Nov 2013
Conference number: 27


ConferenceRENT XXVII - Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business 2013
Abbreviated titleRENT
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs: more definitions won't work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this