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A Call to Action

March 24, 2010
By: Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal Columnist

Q I've tried to talk about succession issues with my kids, but every time the subject is brought up the conversation ends in frustration. It goes downhill fast when one of the kids says, "I want a chance to (blank).”


Another will counter: "You've had a turn; now it's my turn!”

A third will stress: "That was then, this is now. Can't we just get along?”

Then, mom gets upset, leaves the room and the discussion ends in finger pointing and discontent.

I know you encourage open communication. I realize that families don't talk about succession as they should, but how can we if the outcome is always displeasure? Shouldn't I [as the parent] feel a sense of satisfaction and the kids show gratitude?


A In succession planning, taking action to accomplish the defined objectives reaps rewards. The process, however, is not easy, and some steps will be more difficult and less rewarding than others.

Most business owners don't plan for succession because initiating the process is uncomfortable, and the process will test your resolve and try your patience. It requires a different set of skills and abilities than most owners possess, and often there is not immediate gratification.

As a call to action, please consider asking the following questions during initial family meetings.

What is succession, and how will success be measured?

Succession is the act of transitioning the family operation to the next generation. The measure of success, in the discussion stage, is a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. It may include naming a management successor, specifying the years until retirement and identifying a method for transitioning ownership.

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