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August 2008 Archive for Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Waiting Too Long

Aug 26, 2008

Continuing our look at the 12 most common mistakes agribusiness owners repeat, #5 offers a word of caution about procrastination.  A comprehensive succession plan takes time to implement...

(Click here to review previous posts)

Kenny Chesney sings this warning very well, and the lyrics should become an affirmation for busy achievers:

"Don't blink.  You're six years old and you take a nap.
And you wake up and you're twenty-five...
Trust me friend, [the years] go faster than you think."

How many times have you heard it?  "Don't wish your life away.  Time moves too fast."  Yet we still can't wait for Friday, or we put off until 'whenever.'  

Human nature is to hesitate on the important while we address the urgent. >>

Read on...

Allowing Emotion to Dictate Business Decisions

Aug 26, 2008
Continuing our look at the 12 most common mistakes agribusiness owners repeat, #4 examines how preconceived ideas may impede sound judgment.

(Click here to review previous posts)


They enthusiastically participated in the succession planning consultation.  For this middle-aged couple it was a first visit.  We discussed their succession intentions and talked about the family legacy.  We talked about the future and their two children.  Sarah, now 27, had attended a very reputable Ag school, graduated with honors and was almost to her fifth anniversary working full-time in the family operation.  Craig, their 23 year old son, was a different story.

He was obviously the apple of Dad's eye, football hero in high school, a 4-H all-star, currently attending community college and working 'sometimes' on the family farm.  Though Craig didn't show an apparent interest in the business side of things, his dad assured me, "He's young.  You knkow how boys are - he'll come around.  He wants to do this.  Besides, he's always talked about running the place."

Parents and their children, families and emotion, are the purpose of succession planning; they're also the reason most families need objective assistance.  Succession planning is simply about positioning the farm and preparing the family for generational transition. 
But the blessings of emotion to prompt action can be a curse of misapplied decision. >>

Read on...

Not Sharing Cares, Concerns and Considerations

Aug 12, 2008
Continuing our look at the 12 most common mistakes that agribusiness owners repeat...

(Click here to review previous related posts.)

In most families, there is a near-superstitious taboo about discussing personal, private, adult or parental matters.  Kids are taught that it is impolite to ask parents or elders certain delicate questions.  They're not supposed to ask about income or financial issues related to business.  In these families, questions about inheritance or plans regarding estate distributions may be considered disrespectful and inappropriate.

Just to make it perfectly clear, I don't condone meddling in the affairs of others.
  But I do believe that adult children, working in and dependent on the family business, have a right to know. >>

No Clearly Defined Objectives

Aug 11, 2008
As we explore the 12 most common mistakes agribusiness owners repeat, here is misstep #2...

(Click here to review previous related posts.)

Agribusiness owners ride a rollercoaster of seasonal, daily, hourly, and even momentary demands.  The ebb and flow of business decisions, seasonal variables, time constraints, labor resources and environmental pressures all combine to tax a producer's abilities to focus on what should be.

A busy farm owner is often distracted by decisions of the moment that cause him to ignore simple, yet critically important, questions like >>

Ignoring the Elephant in the Living Room

Aug 06, 2008
Overused, yes.  Clichéd, yes.  Appropriate?  Absolutely yes.

"The elephant in the living room" refers to a great big messy situation - a condition so big it's obvious to everyone, yet so potentially messy that no one wants to mention it.  The emotional landmines associated with owning and managing a family business  - be it a farm, agribusiness or factory - are like the proverbial elephant in the living room.

We know categorically that most businesses fail in the transition from one generation to the next due to factors including, but not limited to, inadequate estate planning, insufficient capitalization or failure to prepare the next generation. But years of study and professional observation teach a more immediate lesson. 
Many family businesses do not pass to a successive generation due, in large part to a complete lack of constructive communication.  >>

12 Mistakes Agribusiness Owners Repeat

Aug 05, 2008
A successful agribusiness owner should be concerned with two very important questions:

•  How do I pass the ownership interest in the farming operation to my heirs in a fair and equitable manner?
•  How do I ensure that the farm remains a viable business opportunity through ownership transition?

There are twelve mistakes we see time and time again while addressing succession planning goals.  Many well-intentioned agribusiness owners sow the seeds of discontent and unwittingly destroy the opportunity to create a living legacy.  Each mistake can be avoided or mitigated with planning and objective advice.

In the coming weeks, through this 'Leave a Legacy' blog, I will address the most common mistakes and offer suggested actions to alleviate, eliminate or mitigate the coming damage.

Please feel free to chime in, offer solutions from your experience, ask questions of concern or tender a constructive critique.  The interactive dialogue will be appreciated by everyone interested in leaving a positive legacy.

The twelve most common mistakes agribusiness owners repeat include >>

"Cultivating Multigenerational Success in the Agricultural Community"

Aug 02, 2008

Sixteen years ago Farm Journal introduced Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie and the test plot program. The goal was to improve productivity. Through the combined efforts of test plot farmers, chemical companies, seed suppliers, equipment manufacturers, Ken and the editors of Farm Journal, the test plot program is a resounding success. It has served an instrumental role in changing the face of production agriculture for Farm Journal readers.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the test plot farm families for their willingness to participate in this multifaceted, long-term effort. Without their abiding assistance the advancements in technology, equipment development and tillage practices would not have been possible. The efforts have improved disease control, conservation and resource management.   
Our surveys tell us you want more. It seems that the most confounding and complex problem confronting the agricultural community is the challenge of creating a viable succession strategy. A comprehensive plan will:  
  • Seamlessly transition the family operation to a next generation  
  • Prepare tomorrow’s leaders for changing roles and responsibilities
  • Design a feasible retirement option
  • Address estate tax issues
  • Ensure operational continuity in case of death or disability
There are really only two options – to plan or not to plan.   Not planning leads to business failure and family discontent.
Farm Journal is taking a more active role in providing succession solutions. Like Ken Ferrie and the test plot program, we are offering to use the expertise of my Legacy by Design succession planning consultants to work directly with farm families as they engage in the planning process. Farm Journal, Top Producer, Dairy Today and the other labels of Farm Journal Media are offering a comprehensive succession planning engagement to three farm families in exchange for the opportunity to chronicle the process for readers, viewers and AgWeb visitors.
Succession planning is normally a very personal and absolutely confidential affair between the family and the professional succession planning team. The process takes place over eight to eighteen months, and involves the current owners and active family members. It all starts with a consultation, goes through a series of discovery interactions and culminates in a formal succession plan and implementation schedule.
 “The Farm Journal Legacy Project is a real step on the road to cultivating multigenerational success in the agricultural community, says Charlene Finck in Farm Journal, Late Spring 2008. As we make plans for this project, please consider getting involved.
  1. Do you need the guidance of a firm that specializes in succession for agricultural concerns?  
  2. Will you implement recommendations designed to protect your farm and create a lasting legacy?
  3. Would you like others to learn from your experience? (No financial information will be revealed.) 
If you can answer yes to the three questions above, and you want to be considered for the project, please send a letter that shares a brief overview of your farm, your succession planning frustrations and your goals for leaving a legacy. Please limit your letter to two pages. From the entries, we’ll call to verify information, ask some clarifying questions and select three operations to participate.  Submission details here.
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