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Ready or Not for Succession

December 13, 2009
By: Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal Columnist

A succession plan is more than 75 pages of diagrams, action plans and explanations. It's fulfilling dreams and aspirations. It's developing business goals and learning to lead. It ensures a family's financial security and the operation's capital resources. Planning for succession is a big step toward multigenerational success.

But how is it done, and where do you start? The most important aspect of the planning process is an environment favorable for succession. That includes a family who is willing, engaged, flexible and informed.

The succession planning process can take months and sometimes years. In some cases, it's simple financial planning and proper legal documentation. Other times, it entails behavior modification and changing roles, reams of legal work and sophisticated funding strategies. The planning process follows a defined set of guidelines, but the solutions vary since each family is unique.

Take a few moments to grade your situation by answering the questions below. Each of the four topics plays a critical role in the achievement of your goals. "Succession Matters” speaks to a sincere commitment to multigenerational success.

"Operation Matters” points to organizational preparedness. Do active family members and employees act like a team; do they share a dream of something bigger and better?

"Family Matters” points to the difference between active and inactive family members. Dividing the farm equally among active and inactive family members can become a wedge of discontent between siblings. Concerns for the family's financial security are the motivation for a successful farm operation.

There is a growing pool of succession planning resources on our Web site at Also, the "Leave a Legacy” blog at can serve as an open forum for dialogue questions, concerns and uncommon issues.

The November issue of Farm Journal includes the Legacy Project survey. Please take a few moments to answer the questions and submit your responses. The survey is also available at By answering the questions, you'll help us help you address the perplexing issues of succession planning.

Soon we'll announce the families participating in the Legacy Project documentary series. This is the perfect opportunity to observe as other families go through the planning process.

Finally, e-mail me with your questions, comments or concerns. Logistically, I can't answer everyone personally, but I can combine common questions and address widespread concerns in this column.

Together we can write the story that celebrates your past, commands the present and creates a future. 


Are You Ready for Succession?

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