• Mentoring

Mentor Development: Change Curve Mentoring

Has your entrepreneur encountered a crisis? This case study outlines a fictional crisis senario and presents possible best practices.

Change Curve Mentoring – Case Overview

Rosie is a potter living about a mile from the tourist town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. She is in her second year of business and has been building a ‘following’ for her unique ceramics which have their roots in the style of the Iroquois Indian.

Rosie rents a converted farm outbuilding that houses her pottery studio. As well as designing and selling ceramics she runs courses for novices, enabling them to get a ‘feel’ for the potter’s wheel. Rosie meets with her mentor Mary who travels out to see her from the suburbs of Toronto for an afternoon once a month. A strong relationship has grown between both women leading to a firm friendship on both sides. Rosie’s business has been growing steadily and is currently expected to gross $100k by the end of year two. The turnover in year one was $60k. Her pre-tax profits in year one were around $30k.

However, this positive picture was shattered when Mary received a distressing call from Rosie. Having worked throughout year one without any time off, Rosie decided to take a two week ski vacation in Banff. All was fine until Rosie collided on the slopes with a snowboarder resulting in complicated fractures to her right leg, right arm and a dislocated left shoulder. Although she received immediate treatment (covered by her insurance) she is now panicking because she does not have long-term disability coverage and with a tax demand requiring payment from year one, Rosie only has about $3k in her bank account. Rosie has now been told that it will be at least a year before she will regain full use of her limbs.

Understandably, she doesn’t know who to turn to and a very upset Rosie is now on the phone to Mary.


  • What is the role of the mentor during an extreme business crisis? What support should Mary be providing?
  • What are the mentoring steps that can help Rosie transition from her current situation to a plan for the future?
  • After examining all the options available, Rosie has determined that the business must be closed. What are Mary’s responsibilities as her mentor?

Change Curve Mentoring – Best Practice Solutions

  • Mary’s first responsibility is to listen without pre-judging the situation. Rosie may initially need a ‘friend’ to talk about her feelings and to feel ‘safe’ in the knowledge that what is said is in confidence. Mary should show empathy for Rosie’s situation and express her willingness to help identify and evaluate the business options. Arranging a face to face meeting as soon as it is practically possible must be Mary’s first priority. Informing Futurpreneur Canada about Rosie’s situation may provide some additional support or ideas on working through the crisis. Mary should encourage Rosie to call Futurpreneur Canada directly or let her know that she can also talk to Futurpreneur Canada.
  • At the first stage of Rosie’s transition, it would not be uncommon for her to be experiencing strong emotions. Having experienced the ‘shock’ of her skiing accident she may experience denial about the true impact on the business. Rosie may also experience other feelings such as paralysis (I just don’t know what I’m going to do…). Typically, this will be followed by anger towards others and a feeling of loss. Different people move through transitions in different ways and a skilled mentor will acknowledge the emotions while still helping the entrepreneur to focus on the needs of the business. The responsibility of mentoring both an entrepreneur’s personal development and the business success is very pronounced in a crisis. Mary must seek to understand the boundaries of mentoring in this situation. Rosie may not want to disclose the full extent of the difficulties she is facing. Mary can simply offer to assist in understanding and planning for the impact of the accident on the business. This may involve taking the lead in the next mentoring discussion as a way of relieving the burden on the entrepreneur. Asking questions that explore the current situation may help Rosie to become engaged in the business operations: When does the tax bill need paying? Have the tax office been informed? Can they help by deferring payment? Can Futurpreneur Canada help? Is there a ‘reserve’ that Rosie can access while the business is not trading? What about the customers; are there any orders customers are waiting for? Does the landlord know what is happening? Can he or she defer the rent if Rosie has been a good tenant?
  • Once the decision has been taken to close operations and Mary has provided some guidance and suggestions around how to wrap up the business, the mentoring needs of the business are concluded. Mary simply must inform Futurpreneur Canada of the date that business operations stopped. This is in addition to encouraging Rosie to contact Futurpreneur Canada herself. Mary may still have a few remaining mentoring opportunities with Rosie. Mary can help Rosie by reflecting together on the skills and experience she gained as an entrepreneur. The business failure does not mean Rosie has failed. There are many positives she will be able to take forward into her next ‘career’.

Change Curve Mentoring – Key Learning Points

  • Managing Transitions.Entrepreneurs sometimes encounter personal or professional setbacks that may significantly impact the business. As the entrepreneur goes through the change, his or her mentor can create a supportive environment in which a mentee can work through the difficulty. A supportive climate will enable the mentee to talk, evaluate the alternatives available, and to continue to make informed business decisions.Major changes may trigger various stages of transition in the entrepreneur including numbness or shock that paralyzes the person, denial or trivializing the situation, and self-doubt or depression resulting from the stress prior to accepting the change.
  • Mentors support the entrepreneur’s development and the business success. The mandate of the mentor is not only to provide guidance and suggestions relevant to the business plan and goals but also to support the personal growth and development of the entrepreneur over time. Times of business crisis provide an exceptional opportunity to make significant leaps in capability of the entrepreneur as business issues are resolved.
  • Support the business through all stages of the business cycle. The nature of mentoring needs for the business will change based on the stage of the business from start-up, through growth and finally in wind-up. While most Futurpreneur Canada mentors spend a large portion of their two-year mentoring commitment working through the challenges of the Start-up stage for the business, invariably some mentors will need to support the business through other stages in the business life cycle (Growth, Expansion, or Maturity). A few mentors may need to support a business being closed.