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  • Writer's pictureRandall Fisher

Business Succession: Mentoring your Apprentice

Continuing in our series outlining the steps to crafting an effective business succession plan, today we will highlight the basics of mentoring your CEO-elect.

So you’ve finally found the foot that fits the glass shoe. What now? For starters, you can’t just assume that, after scrubbing floors all her life, Cinderella already knows how to dance. And even if she did, could she do it without breaking her glass heels (or ankles, for that matter)? Dancing lessons, then, are in order.

Belabored Disney metaphors aside, you cannot find someone who knows the in’s and out’s of successfully running your business, even if they’ve found success at the helm of others in the past, for one simple reason: it’s your business. You have a duty to yourself, your employees, and your clients to ensure that the newcomer will run your business in a manner consistent with the precedent you have set. This means you must become something more than an employer: a mentor.

A good baseline for mentoring is assuming that your apprentice, while roughly competent, is utterly and wholly inexperienced. Even if the apprentice has a background in the field, explain every reason that factors into the decisions you make as an executive. Thus they learn not only how to perform basic activities but become acclimated to your way of doing business, which they will be expected to one day emulate.

Ideally, they should be present at every client meeting, conference call, sales opportunity, professional convention, and even at weekend barbecues. Involving your apprentice in your after-office life allows you (1) to gauge, in a less intimidating setting, how they are adapting to the new challenge, and (2) to introduce them to the commitment required of successfully leading a business, which transcends the limits of the basic nine-to-five o’clock workday.

If for some reason you are unable to engage the heir-apparent in the personal sphere, it is all the more imperative that they attend every professional event—and not as a personal assistant. Rather than silently recording notes in the background of your meetings, they should be actively included in the proceedings and always, always introduced. They must be acquainted with your business associates and clients so that when you leave, everyone is a trustworthy familiar face rather than a nervous and unknown quantity.

Throughout all of this, remember to be patient. Time spent grooming your successor is never a waste. Indeed, it should be regarded as an investment in your company—one of the most important ones you can make.

If you have questions on transitions, give us, or your neighborhood financial planner a call. If you don’t have a neighborhood financial planner, get one you trust. It will be the best move you ever make. If you need help finding one, give us a call. We’ll help you look. You can find out how to reach us at our website: You can also find us at, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at

As for transition planning, we won’t bury you with all the details here, but will continue the discussion in a couple of more postings. If you would like to keep updated, subscribe to the blog so that you will receive additional suggestions. If you missed earlier postings and still want them, let us know and we will forward you copies.

Alternatively, you can just click here for Part IPart II, and Part IV of our discussion on business succession strategy. Of course, the first step to creating such a successful strategy is subscribing to this blog (wink) so you’re kept apprised of further developments concerning Maryland business law, trusts, and estate planning.

As always, good luck and good hunting.

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