• Donna Rosa

Effective Business Support Starts with Careful Selection


Most business support organizations in developing countries have some form of criteria to select entrepreneurs for coaching programs. But sometimes I really wonder what they are.


I’ve worked with cohorts of entrepreneurs from a variety of industries or diverse backgrounds. It’s workable but perhaps not ideal. Sometimes they’re at various stages in their businesses or have wildly differing skills levels, which gives me pause. Still, I can meet them where they are.


But what I can’t do much about is lack of passion and motivation, or if they’re just not cut out to be entrepreneurs. This is where careful selection and clear criteria are critical. Here are some things to keep in mind when putting together coaching cohorts:


1. Establish clear criteria for program entry. Criteria can range from finances to industries to education level to business development stage, or anything else. They are an initial screener and allow the organization to focus.


2. Consider charging entrants a small entry fee if it makes sense. The payment can serve to filter in the serious entrepreneurs, who will perceive the services as having value and will work hard to get maximum return on their investment. However, there are cases where charging is not appropriate, so evaluate the circumstances.


3. Group similar businesses together (by size, industry, stage, etc.) in each cohort, if possible, to maximize peer learning and support. Be careful about putting competitors together, however.


4. Conduct interviews or personalized testing to assess entrepreneurial traits, such as willingness to learn, enthusiasm, basic skills such as communication and financial literacy, leadership qualities, management characteristics, adaptability, resilience, ability to listen and reason, emotional intelligence, etc. This is probably the most difficult part of the selection process as it can be subjective, but it is the most important in predicting success in both the program and in the business itself.


5. Set and communicate clear expectations and success criteria, and then measure it.


6. Be inclusive, be very inclusive.


7. Obtain feedback, assess progress, and make changes as needed, based on learning.


Proper participant selection isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the time and effort. Think of it this way: the organization, the mentors, and the entrepreneurs are all making investments in each other to achieve a common goal. If there’s not a good fit it’s not a good ROI for anyone.


Donna Rosa is Founder and Chief Entrepreneurship Officer of EFour Enterprises LLC, providing remote business coaching and advisory to entrepreneurs in developing countries and emerging economies.

For more information, visit https://www.efourenterprises.com/ . To arrange a complimentary online demo and consultation contact Donna at donna (at) efourenterprises.com.

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