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PhD Defence Ruud Koopman | The mishmash of coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs


 Due to the COVID-19 crisis the PhD defence of Ruud Koopman will take place (partly) online.

The PhD defence can be followed by a live stream.

Ruud Koopman is a PhD student in the department for Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Innovation, International Management and Marketing (NIKOS). His supervisor is prof.dr. A. Groen from the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences (BMS).

Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs has received a lot of interest from politicians, educators and researchers. Many incubators, startup centres, and entrepreneurial ecosystems have been developed to facilitate enterprise startup and growth in recent years. Schools and universities also developed several programs to increase the number of startups and to support entrepreneurs. Coaching and mentoring occur in many of these settings. They are often used concepts to support entrepreneurs, but they are rarely unpacked. Research interest has led to many papers about coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs and differences in what these concepts mean.

This thesis shows that coaching and mentoring have a lot in common and can use each other’s knowledge for further development. Although some researchers highlight the common aspects of coaching and mentoring, most researchers focus on the differences. The focus on differences leads to tension between coaching and mentoring research and even land grabbing each other’s territories.

The majority of research shows that the definitions of coaching and mentoring have a clear distinction, but they are not opposites. While most definitions of coaching show the Socratic way of conversation by asking questions, most definitions of mentoring show a goal focused on the business. When looking at the use of these concepts in highly ranked journals about entrepreneurship, we found that most researchers use both concepts the same way, focusing on the business with advice. Some even use both concepts interchangeably.

This thesis measured what coaches and mentors think they do, using the soft support model we developed. These results show that they support the person, the entrepreneur, by asking questions. However, that is not what the entrepreneurs experience. Using the same soft support model, we find that entrepreneurs experience the support of coaches in a more business-focused approach. In terms of mentors, the entrepreneurs experience no significant difference.

Using the soft support model leads to improving the support of entrepreneurs. The first step is to define what kind of support is intended to be given. Then measure the support coaches and mentors implement and the support that entrepreneurs experience. Comparing these results gives useful information to improve the support.