Mentor-Protégé Programs: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know

Mentor-Protégé Programs: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know

We can all think of one time or another when we needed a little guidance. When someone wiser (or maybe just bigger and tougher) than us had to come through and lend a helping hand. Or maybe you’ve been that person.

We often tend to think of business as cutthroat and competitive to a fault, and often it is. But the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé program is an opportunity to get back to the basics of just being a boon to your peers and to learn from those who are making it happen.

The purpose of the Mentor-Protégé program is to develop stronger small firms (the protégés) through business development assistance provided by mentors. It allows smaller businesses to tap into the expertise and capital of larger firms. The overarching goal being that, when a larger firm takes a smaller firm under their wing, it will help that smaller firm compete for (and win!) government contracts.

The Department of Defense provides incentives to their major contractors to furnish these disadvantaged smaller firms with this assistance.

These big fish firms that are taking part in these Mentor-Protégé programs have resources, numbers, and the know-how to help a smaller firm grow their business. Some areas where mentor-provided assistance can be a boon are: Financial Assistance, Trade Education, Business Development Assistance, Contracting Assistance, and General Administrative Assistance.

Whether you need to build up your human resources, discover your market, or build up your business strategy while pursuing contracting and partnership opportunities, mentor firms are out there.

A Mentor-Protégé program allows the two firms to sign a teaming agreement to partner together and compete for contracts.

So how does one become a mentor or a protégé?

For protégés, size matters. In particular, it begs the question “are you a small business concern”?

To be eligible for assistance, small businesses must be organized for profit, operate primarily within the United States, have a place of business located in the United States, and make significant contributions to the economy of the United Statements (via your taxes or through your use of American products and labor).

How do you know if you’re a small business?

The SBA will count the number of employees and receipts for your business, and any of your affiliates whether they’re foreign or domestic.

In the case of mentors, it’s really just as simple as being ready, willing, and able. Any business, large or small, that desires to assist small businesses may act as a mentor and receive benefits. The SBA will review a mentor’s tax returns, financial statements, and any SEC filings to determine whether or not the mentor is financially fit and able to take on the responsibility of mentoring. Generally, mentors will only work with one protégé, at a time, though there are some exceptions to this rule.

The nuts and bolts of the Mentor-Protégé program are as follows:

  • There must be a written agreement, acknowledging the protégé’s needs and setting forth a detailed description and timeline for the mentor’s commitments to the protégé and how those needs are going to be addressed.
  • Ensure that the mentor will provide the required assistance to the protégé for at least one year
  • Provide that either party may terminate the agreement with 30 days advance notice to the other party and to the SBA

When you succeed with the mentor-protégé program, we will be there for the job of matching benefits between companies.

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