Successful individuals in all areas of human endeavor routinely attribute much of their accomplishments to the help and guidance of more experienced individuals who took an interest in their career. We refer to these benefactors as mentors, a word that makes its first recorded appearance in Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” circa 800 B.C. The positive characteristics associated with mentoring in the modern era make their first known appearance in the French novel “Les Aventures de Telemaque” by Fenelon in 1699. In this novel, Mentor is a primary character and does in fact groom Telemachus to become a wise and powerful king.

For close to 40 years now, mentoring in the workplace has been examined extensively in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. The results of these studies demonstrate many benefits to the career success of the protege, the career of the mentor and the organizations that encourage informal mentoring or have developed formal mentoring programs. From the standpoint of small-business development and entrepreneurial assistance programs, it is a long-standing tradition to provide mentoring to aspiring entrepreneurs.

For example, Score, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a nonprofit association and resource partner with the Small Business Administration that has been providing mentoring to small-business owners since 1964. The group currently has more than 13,000 volunteers who offer mentoring services to small-business owners at no charge. Many other organizations charged with the development of entrepreneurial activity have also implemented systems for linking novice entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneur mentors. There are multiple entrepreneurship and innovation centers in Arkansas that provide mentors for new entrepreneurs as well.

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