“I was 100 per cent against mentoring before. I didn’t believe in it at all,” admits Jean Agenor, founder and CEO of Waxdale Ecosystem. The reason was simple: he was uncertain whether people’s experiences were relatable. “Your reality is not the same as others, but there will be realities that are the same, that’s the importance of mentoring,” he now acknowledges.
Agenor, who is an accountant by trade, acts as a mentor at a number of organizations, including Futurpreneur, the United Nations, and The Forum. He has changed his mind with the intention of bringing to others what he didn’t have when he first started out. “When I got started in entrepreneurship, there was no one…who took the time to figure out what we wanted to do. It was pretty hard to navigate, we had to figure out everything ourselves,” he recalls.
While his business specializes in supporting startups as they launch and grow, being a mentor has allowed him to help his peers in a different way. “[Entrepreneurship] is a journey, and through that journey, there are pitfalls,” he says. Some of these obstacles are part of the game. Others, Agenor notes, are avoidable: “A mentor is going to help you not face those kinds of pitfalls, [allowing] you to go out and face the hurdles necessary to progress, not the ones that don’t.”
Representation is central to Agenor’s approach. In his early days, he met but few people who shared his background or ambitions. Being able to relate to a mentor can be a great inspiration to broaden one’s perspective. Today, Agenor urges everyone to become an agent of change by figuratively stepping into the self they want to be, and to keep in mind those who will come after: “The next person will do it because they see you, and there will be a chain reaction. Representation allows you to see your options.”
Mentors also benefit from their experience. Becoming a mentor is a win-win situation, Agenor believes. “The best way to learn is to teach,” he tells us. When you are volunteering your time, it’s not about telling your mentees what to do or telling the story of your success. It’s about lending an ear, offering resources, and, most importantly, collaborating. “I’ve worked with a variety of entrepreneurs. It was important for me to understand how they think, [and] what their challenges are,” he says. Thus, in having someone to think with them through the questions the mentees raise, many entrepreneurs find solutions that work for them.
Beyond entrepreneurial success, it is also crucial to achieving self-actualization. Mentoring helps to do so, namely by bringing people closer together. Furthermore, according to Agenor, the emotional intelligence that entrepreneurs need to develop is particularly underestimated in business: “We often talk about IQ, but EQ is important too. Entrepreneurship is not just about money.” And it’s an invaluable skill that can be costly if you lack it. Emotional intelligence makes you a better manager for both your employees and your business – the key to prosperity and longevity.