In the inaugural Bluespring Out Loud podcast episode, I sat down with founder-successor pair Mike Rudelson and Aaron Durden of LifeBridge Financial Group, a wealth management firm that serves the physicians and staff of U.T. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
In 2016, Mike and Aaron merged their two businesses by selling to Bluespring Wealth Partners. Throughout the podcast discussion, we explored the founder-successor relationship as well as how Mike and Aaron successfully transitioned from leading their own businesses to becoming a cohesive unit.
Below are three succession planning takeaways gleaned from our conversation:
Plan for the unexpected before it’s too late. Mike and Aaron were brought together by what Mike calls a “fortunate accident.” In 2015, Mike was devastated to learn he had a fatal heart disease and set out to quickly identify a successor to protect his firm and ensure his hundreds of clients were cared for. Fortunately, he was advised by doctors that his condition was misdiagnosed in 2018. This life-changing experience was a stark reminder that it’s critical to prepare your business before an emergency situation occurs, and identifying a potential successor is the first step.
Two is often better than one. There is a common misconception that founders of businesses and their successors cannot coexist. The reality is the two can function and excel in tandem. Mike and Aaron, for example, each bring complementary skill sets to LifeBridge that enhance and broaden their firm’s service offering. Mike’s specialties include client acquisition and money management, while Aaron excels at business administration and strategic financial planning. Their differing skill sets are not at odds with one another, but rather enable each to focus on what they’re best at and help the firm deliver an enhanced client experience.
Patience and communication are key. Succession planning is not an “overnight haul,” according to Aaron. Especially in the early stages of a partnership, it’s normal to hit a few bumps in the road and have conflicting interests. To overcome these hurdles, be patient and actively listen to your partner – he or she may offer a better approach to accomplishing something. Additionally, early on, clearly identify and communicate long-term objectives with one another to ensure all parties are on the same wavelength.
There is no standard blueprint for succession plans as each business is unique, which is why sharing personal experiences from teams like LifeBridge is so important. If you’re interested in learning more about the succession planning process, please contact Bluespring Wealth Partners and we would be glad to help you.