What happens next? That question can haunt farm families when it's time to exchange ownership from one generation to the next. How can farm families and businesses plan for their children's futures and ensure financial security? Who is entitled to what? And by the way, how can you broach these emotional and potentially contentious topics without ruining a holiday dinner?
We recently hosted a farming succession event with succession planner Kevin Spafford, who gave us helpful tips he's discovered while working with hundreds of ag families. We think they'll help you, too.
Five Keys to Succession Planning:
Plan, plan, plan! This is a big fish to fry for any farming family. Don't avoid "The Talk" because it is a touchy or fight-triggering subject. Have an honest conversation with all parties involved and discuss who will be taking ownership of the farm in the coming years. Remember: preparation will steer the farm away from failure.
Obstacles like greed, family disharmony, control freaks, self-interest, and lack of contribution are tricky topics to air. Speak candidly about those downfalls and nip them in the bud with new solutions. Come to terms with the fact that your family and in-laws are dynamic people who make mistakes. No matter what the concern, you must focus on the BIG picture - your children's futures and the future of the farm.
Families can find common ground and unity by writing down both small and major goals that every person can agree on. What are your family's values? Write, type or record what your family's values are so they can properly be passed down to the next generation. Make sure every family member is aware of what you stand for and what your goals are.
Good communication with relatives is crucial to a farm, so it's important to schedule regular meetings with the entire family during the year. If a family member can't attend because of a scheduling conflict, have them attend the meeting via speakerphone or Skype. Again, make sure that notes are taken at every meeting; it doesn't matter whether they are handwritten, typed, or even recorded. If these meetings become unfriendly, make it a rule that any family member can call a timeout.
All the planning in the world isn't going to save a business if people don't commit, so strive to have every person on board with your family's succession plan. Speak freely when issues arise and keep lines of communication open.
Grimbleby Coleman is a trusted ally when it comes to assisting with succession planning. We want every family to accomplish its long-term financial and farm goals. There's no time quite like the present when it comes to the matter of succession planning - make plans with your family today.
Ian serves as a lead client contact focused on attest services. He applies his international perspective gleaned from working with clients from multiple industries including utilities, technology, pharmaceuticals, retail and not for profit. Although Ian initially started out as a marketing major at Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business, he later switched to the accounting program to gain more insights into how businesses run.
Ian is a Modesto native but spent seven years with PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) – starting as an intern in San Jose, then joining the firm’s LA office before eventually transferring to their offices in first Edinburgh and later Aberdeen, Scotland.
While abroad, Ian and his wife Jessica found time to travel throughout Europe, including a 3,000 mile camping trip through France and Italy with their 5-month old son. Ian "considers Edinburgh one of his favorite places in the world, despite the high cost of living in the UK." He highly recommends traveling there, especially during the festivals in August.
Ian would like to spend his Saturdays in June with his young family enjoying the ocean either in Carmel or Pismo Beach. By October, he’s likely to be headed to Big Sur for a camping trip. When January rolls around, Ian will no doubt be yearning to put his season pass to use snowboarding at Dodge Ridge.