The Irish Executive Mentoring Program is recruiting. The voluntary organizations looks to nurture upcoming entrepreneurial talent by linking young Irish citizens and members of the diaspora with experienced individuals in their field.

IEMP was founded in New York in 2012 in the belief that mentoring is one of the most dynamic and effective ways to nurture young talent. It’s work was recognized by the Irish Government in 2014 when IEMP was awarded a grant to facilitate the continuation of its work.  

Mentors are usually in the middle of or nearing the end of their business careers and as such are well placed to give advice to young Irishmen and women starting out their careers.

Alan Duncan who signed up to the program as a mentee and founded Select PR told IrishCentral, “People often think the the first couple of years are the hardest part of running a business. While they definitely present some serious challenges, things don't suddenly become easier with time. If anything, the stakes get a lot bigger. When I was invited to participate in the Irish Executive Mentoring Programme, my business was at a critical junction. We had entered a period of strong growth, which required significant changes in the way I approached my business. Changes I hadn't even realized.

Alan Duncan.

Alan Duncan.

“I was partnered with Gavin Barrett, Chief Commercial Officer at Story Toys. Working with Gavin, it quickly became clear that a lack of organizational structure and task ownership was holding my company back. With his help I was able to map out the business, identify the people I needed to hire to free my time and facilitate our growth. Experience is a great teacher, but being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who has been through it all before can be invaluable to a small startup.

“Our company now operates across three different cities, with clients throughout the UK and Ireland, and have continued on a very positive growth curve. Furthermore, by allowing myself to focus on building the business, we've been able to diversify our offering - reducing risk - and create jobs. Without the IEMP and Gavin's assistance, Select PR at best would have stuttered along without any clear direction and at worst would have stagnated.

“The wealth of Irish talent around the world and their willingness to support one another is something we should be hugely proud of. I would strongly recommend IEMP to anyone serious about growing their business.”

His mentor Gavin Barrett who now works as Chief Commercial of Touch Press - a digital publisher of apps, games and educational content - sent IrishCentral an email explaining that, “Throughout my career I’ve been motivated by a desire to build Irish success stories. I’ve worked in a range of startups with varying degrees of success, and I’m happy to share the benefits of my experiences, my successes, and my numerous mistakes with others walking the same path.

Gavin Barrett, Chief Commercial of Touch Press.

Gavin Barrett, Chief Commercial of Touch Press.

“I think of mentoring a little bit like a counseling session, in that the most productive approach is to let the mentee arrive at their own conclusions. My role is simply to facilitate that process, perhaps by suggesting new ways of analyzing a problem, or alternative perspectives on the challenges they face.”

He is positive that the scheme can continue to contribute positively the careers of future young entrepreneurs, “I would love to think that as new Irish businesses focus on international expansion, IEMP could have a structured, ongoing role in providing mentors for senior management, perhaps through a relationship with Enterprise Ireland.”

Gillian Horan who works for The Pudding - a full service branding agency is also positive about her experience with the program. She signed up because she felt like she needed some assistance to help her.

“I really felt the need for guidance, accountability and a sounding board,” she told IrishCentral. “Not only is [business] tough at times, it can be also quite lonely. I don't have a business partner or a co-founder and at the time I didn't have a Board of Advisors, so I really felt I needed a mentor to help me grow the business.”

She felt the program was hugely beneficial to her, “I got so much for the IEMP mentoring program. From having more accountability to knowing I could ask any business question without feeling foolish. Chris mentored me with a balance of friendliness and assertiveness. I knew every month I needed to update him on the business and I knew I would need to review the results of the tasks he previously set out for me. Chris made me think differently and he made me think big. Thinking big was one of the best things I could of learned at that time. I live and work in Ireland but my business can be global and now, I am delighted to say it is.”

And even though the program is technically now over, she and her mentor still keep up with each other. “During the program we were in contact every month. Since we finished our initial six months, Chris and I catch up every few months. It is fantastic to know that at the end of the phone (or more accurately Skype!|), there is someone who genuinely wants to check in, wants to see how I am doing and is always willing to help. Just yesterday Chris spotted on LinkedIn that I was speaking at a European Conference on Employer Branding, not only did he wish me the best of luck, he passed on an article that I could use as reference in my talk. For me that sums up how this program is still benefiting me.  I have no doubt that Chris and I will be in contact for many years to come.”

As for Chris, he became a mentor because he simply wanted to give back. “I had the benefit of mentors in my career and it is simply a way of paying back that experience.  All business is really about people, and the Irish are renowned and respected for their communication skills, so it's not a stretch for most of us! Additionally, we have the advantage of less than 'six degrees of separation' and that really helps build global networks. The benefit to young Irish people is helping them build connections within this huge global diaspora.  My interaction is a virtual meeting - typically by Skype) - twice a month for one hour for the  six month program, but the real benefits accrue 12-18 months down the road - in Gillian's case it has been wonderful to see her double her business and expand her staff, and if I can act as a catalyst that really is a win-won!”

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