At the core of a mentoring plan is an assessment of the successor's capabilities: intellectual, educational, communication, and leadership strengths and weaknesses, as well as his or her skills and interests. Once that assessment is made and discussed, the successor, senior family leader and mentor or mentors can develop a plan to improve weaknesses and capitalize on strengths.
That's what the Merlin Group is doing with Eric Monsen, who is enthusiastic about the idea. The committee determined Eric's lack of engineering skills wasn't important as long as he has good technical people around him, but strengthening his already obvious leadership skills is necessary for the company's continued success.
Evaluating the successor's capabilities is just the start. When the mentoring plan is in effect, there has to be sufficient teaching, training and monitoring of its assignments and goals. "Specific goals--what successors must do, what must be accomplished before they move to the next step--are necessary if the younger generation is to move through the plan," says Hoover.
The plan should be of limited duration, anywhere from five to 10 years, Hoover contends. At the end of the successor's mentoring, barring any unforeseen problems, leadership is transferred from the existing leader to the new one. And retiring business owners can sleep a little sounder knowing they've done all they can to keep the business in good hands.