For many people, their business is their baby. You nurture it, help it grow and succeed, and then one day as you reach retirement age, you reluctantly have to let it go on to flourish without you. This can be emotionally challenging on many levels, especially since in many cases your clients have become almost like family; you don’t want to trust their financial needs to just anyone.

That’s why cultivating a mentoring relationship now makes good business sense. Bringing new agents into the fold and taking them under your wing can help you identify a partner to build your business today, while developing a potential successor to service your clients when you retire. Of course, your customers will benefit from continuity of service, an important component in keeping their hard-earned trust.

The need for new recruits

The fact is, our industry is facing a recruitment crisis, with an ever-shrinking pool of young talent at our disposal. Recent statistics suggest the average age of today’s top producers is 52–and steadily rising. In addition, the career agent population has declined 33% from 1989 to 2006. Unfortunately, this news comes at a time when the need for qualified financial professionals is more critical than ever, especially with the vast number of baby boomers nearing retirement.

One way companies can address this problem and find new ways to help successful producers grow and expand the scope and size of their business is by initiating a mentoring program for new recruits. A structured program can help producers make that critical first move. It can also be a rewarding experience, allowing seasoned professionals to give back and help someone else succeed in this business. It can also help expand and build on successful practices.

Seeing a need within the industry, more and more companies now offer tools and programs to help today’s entrepreneurs develop mentoring relationships with their young prot?g?s. While some of these relationships happen informally, others are more structured. A properly developed program can offer the best of both worlds.

The junior partner can receive formal professional development through a company’s various training programs, while the veteran provides the informal, hands-on training and coaching through joint selling activities and ongoing career development. That’s a wining combination!

Potential advantages of a mentoring program for companies and producers alike include:

? An investment in leaders who then develop future leaders.

? The opportunity to recruit and develop new talent that supports business growth.

? Enhanced productivity for up and comers through one-one-one training and support.

? Potential financial incentives for the senior partner.

? A possible successor for practice transfer.

If you are an entrepreneur, you are undoubtedly always looking for ways to build your practice. One reason you got into this field was probably because it offered you the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Becoming a mentor can allow you to give back to an even greater degree by passing on your years of experience and knowledge to help someone else succeed.

Although many mentoring programs are still in their beginning stages, our own early results show that junior partners who work with a senior mentor are at least 15% more productive than others at their same level. Many senior level partners find their own production increasing as well. Clearly, this is encouraging for everyone involved.

Understanding your role as a mentor

Think back to when you were just getting started. Were there senior level producers you looked up to and admired? Perhaps there were best practices you learned later in your career that could have helped you succeed sooner, if someone had simply shown you the ropes. You can make that kind of difference for someone else.

As a mentor you would:

? Recruit and develop a new producer who supports both his/her and your goals.

? Coach him/her about sales processes and relationship based selling.

? Serve as a role model for quality business practices.

? Develop a succession plan for your business.

The mentee advantage

Perhaps you find yourself on the other side of the equation, just starting down your career path and in need of guidance and direction. While you may have access to structured training opportunities, few can provide the one-on-one educational benefits found within a mentor/mentee relationship.

As a mentee you could:

? Learn the ropes of your industry from a seasoned professional.

? Gain invaluable insight into how to build your business.

? Avoid common career pitfalls and put yourself on the fast-track to success.

? Develop a potentially long-term career path should your relationship lead to a business succession agreement.

Success in business, especially any kind of sales, is always based on relationship building. Developing key relationships with colleagues can help ignite your passion for your profession. Sharing knowledge is a great way to affirm your own success. And learning from those who have already succeeded is the best way to succeed yourself. It’s also a critical step in ensuring your business’s future by being personally involved in training the hands that will someday take the torch and run with it.