New Generation

According to the Pew Research Center, every day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years old — and this will continue through the year 2030. There are many societal implications to a statistic like this. However, the fact that many of these boomers are closely held business owners is a strong indication that there could be a surge of small businesses going up for sale over the next decade as these boomers enter retirement.

Perhaps you are nearing the stage where it’s time to start thinking about life after business ownership. If so, now is the time to start the process of succession planning.

Mentoring Nextgen Leaders

There are many components of a succession plan, including planning for all the financial aspects involved in the sale of your business. But one aspect of succession planning that many owners neglect is grooming the next generation of leadership to prepare them for their new responsibilities.

This leadership training process is important regardless of whether you plan to pass the ownership of your business to family members, current employees or sell to outside buyers. And it should begin long before you’re ready to retire. Ideally, you will start identifying staff members who may possess strong leadership skills several years (at least) before your planned exit date from the business.

One you have identified these future leaders, you must make it a priority to personally invest time and resources into grooming and trainingthem to lead your business after you’re gone. This is one responsibility that you cannot delegate to others, because only you can pass on to future leaders the kind of real-world, hands-on knowledge and experience they will need to be successful in running the business.

One way to make sure you’re carving out the time that’s essential to grooming the next generation of leadership is to change your mindset when it comes to leadership training and development. Instead of thinking of yourself as the boss-leader, think of yourself as a mentor-leader. A mentor-leader will:

  • Share his or her unique knowledge of the business and challenges faced with mentees, as well as solutions to these challenges.
  • Motivate mentees to learn what they need to know in order to assume a future leadership role in the company.
  • Recognize the unique skills and talents possessed by their mentees and help build on them.
  • Identify areas where mentees are weak and work together with them to shore up their weaknesses.
  • Help mentees achieve their full potential in their jobs today while laying a foundation for future leadership success.

5 Tips for Mentoring

Here are five suggestions for things you can do starting today to help the next generation of leadership be prepared:

1. Invite future leaders to participate in important meetings, whether these are internal with top managers and executives or external with important customers. And solicit their input and feedback during these meetings.

2. Introduce future leaders to your key vendors and suppliers and clearly explain the role each of them plays in your company’s success.

3. Look for learning opportunities where future leaders can broaden their skills and knowledge. This might include sending them to conferences and seminars or even paying for them to obtain advanced degrees, like an MBA or advanced technical certifications.

4. Get future leaders involved in your industry trade association and other organizations where they can be exposed to leaders in your industry and network with others in similar roles to theirs.

5. Finally, give future leaders some real decision-making authority — and the opportunity to fail if their decisions don’t work out. Sure, it will be hard to stand by and stay quiet if you think you know better. But it’s better for them to fail now and learn valuable lessons in the “school of hard knocks” than later when you’re no longer around to help deal with the fallout of decisions that don’t work out.

Preparing the next generation of leadership for your company could be your most important job right now. So give this task and responsibility the attention and emphasis it deserves. The future well-being of your business might very well depend on it.