Apr 20, 2014
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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.

Reasons to Plan

Apr 15, 2014

Teen girls with calf   USDA NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (04.11.2014).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

As an advisor to family business owners, I know success is no accident and failure is never the intent. So what happens, and why do most businesses fail in the transition from one generation to the next? What keeps an owner--one who has weathered the storm, risked it all year after year, tied it together with baling wire during the lean times, and stood his or her ground no matter what--from facing the inevitable and planning for the unavoidable?
Succession is the next challenge; it is what separates the good from the great, the committed from the indifferent. A well-executed plan for succession is the difference between success and significance.
Here are a few good reasons to plan for succession:
1. You want the farm to remain in the family.
2. You want a smooth ownership transition.
3. You want to provide opportunities for future generations.
4. You want to provide fair and equitable distributions to your heirs.
5. You and your dependents need financial security.
6. You don't want to pay the estate tax.
7. You don't want your farm converted to non-farm use.
8. You don't want your land farmed by an ever-larger neighbor.
9. You want the farm to continue as a testament to your hard work.
10. You care about the farm and those who are dependent on the operation.
If you're planning, take a couple of minutes to let me know how it's going. If you're not, please let me know what we can do to help. Write to Ask Kevin. The Farm Journal Legacy Project is an excellent resource for you to get started.

News & Resources for You:

Tomorrow, the duty to run the farm may fall to sons, daughters and/or employees. Are they ready to lead? 

Take the critical first steps in starting your succession plan by attending a Farm Journal Legacy Project workshop.
eLegacyConnect allows connected members of the farm community to address  questions and share experiences in real-time.
Wishing all the best of Easter to you and yours!

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 Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.


I Don't Think a Plan is Necessary If...

Apr 08, 2014

iStock For Sale FarmFrom Legacy Moment (04.04.2014).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

No doubt about it, planning for succession is a big job. It requires a lot of commitment. It may cost money and there's no guarantee it will work as you intend.

So, why plan? To be blunt, it really isn't necessary if:

  • You don't want the farm to remain in the family.
  • You prefer that your family fight over the spoils after you're gone.
  • You don't care about the farm and those who are dependent on the operation.
  • You think your family will prefer liquidation to settle your estate.
  • You assume your neighbors are better farmers than your descendants.
  • You don't want a smooth ownership transition.
  • You don't want fair distributions; you prefer equal as prescribed by the state.
  • You and your dependents don't need financial security.
  • You want to pay your full-proportionate share of estate taxes.
  • You don't mind if your farm is converted to non-farm use.
  • You don't mind if your land is farmed by an ever-larger neighbor.
  • You hope the highest bid is a testament to your hard work.
  • You don't want to provide opportunities for future generations.

The hard truth of planning for succession is this: it's not necessary if you and your descendants prefer the family farm ends on your watch.


News & Resources for You:

Ready to kick-start your plan? Online registration is open now for Legacy Project Workshops in Syracuse, N.Y.; Omaha, Neb.; Moline, Ill.; and Austin, Minn.

You're not alone. Too many people procrastinate when it comes to succession planning, citing "unique circumstances."

Are you inclined to forge ahead briskly, or are you more the cautious, reluctant type? Gain insight into your natural tendencies with this quick eLegacyConnect assessment.

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Do You Want to Solve It?

Apr 02, 2014

iStock Green FarmFrom Legacy Moment (03.28.2014).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

It's become my go-to question. I have a number of consultations each week with farmers and active family members who contact me via Ask Kevin, email or phone call. As part of the conversations, I sound out each caller about their intent and measure their level of determination. Recently, I've been bluntly asking:

"Do you want to solve it [your succession puzzle]?"

Often that question is met with silence and hesitation, and then a response, "Of course." Well if you do, like most of my callers, I encourage you to jump in with both feet. Commit to the succession planning process and take the steps necessary to achieve success.

"But how?" you might ask.

Begin with Conversation Starters, a six-question worksheet designed to get the family talking about their succession desires. Schedule a family meeting and create an agenda based on your intents and the input of those who may attend. From there, you should be prepared to discuss a comprehensive succession planning model. Your plan should include provisions for: ownership transition, leadership development, financial security and estate taxes.

Some people want to know how long the planning process will take. Frankly, it doesn't really matter. From commitment stems a desire to start making the changes necessary to achieve multigenerational success. So if you really want to solve it, commit today.

The Farm Journal Legacy Project provides the information, tools, and resources you need to get started. Rally the family and solicit their interest; it will be one of the most gratifying conversations of your life. And, be confident you won't go it alone. We're here to encourage, guide and assist.

News & Resources for You:

Please note: The Legacy Project Workshop in Syracuse, N.Y., has now been rescheduled for Monday, June 16. Also, registration is now open for events in NE, IL, and MN. Register online here, or call Farm Journal Events at (877) 482-7203. 

No matter what you call it, how long it takes or how difficult it might be to initiate, succession is a must.

The goal is an operation that will endow the family for generations to come.  

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Growing It Forward

Apr 01, 2014

From Legacy Moment (03.21.2014).
Attema FamilyPlease join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

As an ag exchange student, Menno was attracted by the wide-open spaces and plentiful opportunities. Now, 30+ years later, he faces a new set of challenges. He and his wife, Jeanne Ann, have four children who have expressed an interest in following in their parents' footsteps. Though an enviable problem, it speaks to the need for good communication and a plan for succession.

Both Menno and Jeanne Ann descended from farm families, so engaging in the process has been a natural extension of melding together family and business. Their collective experience (Menno as a farming professional who weathered the 1980s as a beginner, floods and droughts throughout his career, and Jeanne Ann as a teacher) have allowed them to start the process with constructive family meetings.

When the conversation comes around to succession, experience tells us most farmers:

• Know what they want to achieve
• Are prepared to have constructive conversations
• Have tried some form of planning

Yet for some reason, progress stalls. Maybe it's an unanticipated problem, time constraints, seasonal workloads or just a lack of commitment. Don't give up.

If you missed the latest episode of "Leave a Legacy" TV, you can view it online now, to learn more about the Attemas and their efforts to keep the family in farming and 'Grow it Forward!'

News & Resources for You:

Catch up on archived episodes of "Leave a Legacy" TV for more farm family profiles.

When it's time to talk about succession, sharing these questions in advance can help family members consider their succession goals and communicate them.

Wondering about eLegacyConnect? Start with our FAQ overview.

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Photo courtesy of the Attema family.


Jump Into the Fray

Mar 26, 2014

Idaho   USDA NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (03.14.2014).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

Biographies from across the American landscape are rife with ideas and lessons that can guide today's agripreneurs to solutions. The challenges of yesterday prepared us with the education, experience and insight to meet the complexities of tomorrow. Although farming practices and management methods change, principles on the path to success are everlasting.

A farmer friend likes to say, "We develop bad habits during good times, and good habits during bad." With that in mind, 2014 is an excellent time to focus on the fine points of business management, marketing proficiency and leadership development. To put it bluntly, the winners will be separated from the whiners with a healthy dose of tenacity, patience and long-term vision.

Start with a renewed business plan. Examine every facet of your operation. Take it apart, spread it across the desk, and ensure that each function is necessary, providing a clear path to the bottom line. (Have questions about how best to proceed? Share your concerns confidentially; others likely face the same issues.)

Don't stand aside as a spectator and wistfully wish for your situation to be different. Jump into the fray, take control and be the solution. This nation was built by pioneers, and there is still ground to be broken. America remains the land of opportunity for those agripreneurs strong enough to weather the sometimes daunting, yet conquerable, challenges ahead.  

News & Resources for You: 

Business planning allows you to envision and then test your theories in writing. If they don't work on paper, they won't work in the real world.

Catch up on archived episodes of "Leave a Legacy TV" for stellar examples of agripreneurs developing resourceful solutions for success.  (And a new episode airs this Friday, March 28th!)

Explore an unparalleled library of succession planning resources at eLegacyConnect

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Photo Courtesy of USDA NRCS.


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