From Legacy Moment (11/23/2012).
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At times, the senior generation can be hard to get through to. They can be stubborn—and remain that way just to prove a point. All too often, they just don't seem to listen. So, as a young aspiring farmer, what do you do to get the senior generation's attention and make sure they understand your growing interest in farming? How do you respectfully let them know you want to discuss succession while maintaining the deference necessary to continue the conversation?
It all starts with the right attitude. Know that wanting to follow in another person's footsteps, especially for parents and grandparents, is the biggest compliment you might bestow. It is downright flattering to hear another person say, "Someday, I wanna be just like you." That statement is even more powerful when the other person knows you're not talking about money or wealth, landholdings or market values, but rather work ethic and abilities, talents and family values.
Be well prepared before you ask your parents or grandparents about becoming a farmer and working in the family operation. Farming is a profession. It is a serious business and it requires the right approach. With resumé in hand and a few written ideas to grow the operation, visit with the senior generation about your desires. Open the conversation with a series of questions to help them engage in a meaningful discussion about succession planning.
Opening questions might include:
1. Is maintaining family ownership of the farm important to you, and have you thought about how we can achieve that goal?
2. What conditions are necessary for us to grow the operation to support additional active family members? What conditions might eliminate the possibility?
3. If you were to help me devise a professional development plan to become a viable member of the farm's management team, what education, experiences, mentors and skills would you recommend I use?
4. In creating a plan for growing the operation and continuing family ownership, who should be a part of the process and why?
5. Which personal/vocational work characteristic do you observe in me that I should overcome to better serve the needs of the farm?
6. When can we visit about this again, and what can we do to prepare for that conversation?
7. What has to happen for you to agree to implement a succession plan for our family operation?
News & Resources for You:
A communication guide will help all parties stay focused on the goals for transition.
In one of our favorite columns from the archives, a 12-year-old asks how he may prepare to take the reins someday.
If you'll be at this week's Executive Women in Ag Conference (Chicago), make a note: the Legacy Project's Josh Sylvester presents succession planning information at 8:15, 9:20, and 10:55 on Friday morning. Safe travels, and see you there...