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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.

It's a Simple Rule of Business

Jan 15, 2013


Sheep Farmer   USDA ARSFrom Legacy Moment (01/11/2013).
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Like an old adage, business principles apply whether you run the corner hair salon, own the Olde Towne Butcher Shoppe or manage the family farm. As with values, principles are timeless and never go out of fashion. You learn business principles by repetition. Experience is a good teacher, and repeated mistakes become the reinforcer. Classrooms are a good place to learn theory, and mentors help us to learn the everlasting keys to business success.
In visiting with young aspiring farmers and ambitious next generations, the conversation always comes around to, "How do I convince my parents to make me a part of the operation? I've told them I'm ready. I work really hard and they still won't budge." These discussions are so often "me" focused that most participants don't hear the words they're using. A person should always keep in mind the other participant's point of view and imagine his or her background.
The senior and middle generations might understand, overtly or covertly, that you add partners, members and/or additional owners only when they bring something (money, talent, capabilities, relationships, experiences, etc.) that isn't currently available on the management team and cannot be replicated economically. This principle is good management. It makes sense both academically and practically. From an arm's-length, outside perspective, everyone agrees.
So, back to the problem at hand: As a young, aspiring farmer, how do you let them know you're ready?
Might I suggest you apply the same principle?
Demonstrate, through actions, experiences, education and desire that you bring something that is not currently available on the management team. What capabilities, relationships, concepts or business arrangements do you bring to the operation that are not readily available otherwise? The answers are not as difficult as they might seem. Take a close look at your resumé. Do you possess the skills and abilities necessary to make a meaningful contribution to the operation? Have you created a business plan that will help grow the business and expand opportunity for everyone?
Taking a different point of view and applying effective business principles will help everyone who is active and dependent upon the operation to make betterchoices—and that's a good thing.
News & Resources for You:
Because the family farm represents opportunity and legacy, careful consideration is essential before initiating a transition.
To prepare yourself for leadership, candidly assess your own skills, strengths and areas for growth.
A forward-thinking 12-year-old considers how he might prepare himself to take the reins of the family ranch.
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