Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal’s succession planning expert, shares his expertise with a group of farmers gathered at the March 12, 2012 legacy workshop in Moline, Ill.
Be careful not to put your self-interests above everyone else's when succession planning
Everybody knows the tale of the goose that laid the golden eggs, says Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal’s succession planning expert. So don’t let that childhood fairy tale turn into a very real problem because of poor succession planning, he says.
"We all know the story," he says. "Family chopped up the goose—no more golden eggs and no more goose. I think your farm is the same way. The farm is the goose that lays the golden eggs that endows your family. Our farm means a whole bunch of things to our family. It might mean money, and financial security, and heritage, and values, and future opportunities."
One danger with succession planning is when everyone comes to the table with their own self-interests elevated above everyone else’s, Spafford says.
"When we start chopping up the ‘goose’ in self-interest, now what have we done?" he asks. "We have no more eggs and no more goose, and we sit there looking at each other saying, ‘It’s your fault.’"
Spafford says there are several keys to help ensure a successful succession-planning process. The first of these is good communication. Start with a family meeting that has a written agenda, he says. This meeting should follow a few suggested ground rules, he adds, including:
- Hold meetings in a safe (i.e., neutral) environment
- Don’t personalize
- Follow agenda
- Don’t dredge up the past
- Listen to learn
- Anyone can call a time-out
Spafford is hosting several one-day Farm Journal Legacy Project workshops in March, July and December. These workshops, developed by Farm Journal and supported by Pioneer, are specifically designed to kick-start the succession planning process.