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November 2009 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.

Thankful for these Thoughts

Nov 24, 2009

This week we heard from aDavid Alden, Photographer - Honey Run Covered Bridge Midwest farmer who, prompted by Jeanne Bernick’s article “Staring Down Succession,” forwarded his own seasoned reflections about succession planning.

 Bill, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. As a professional specializing in succession planning, I have a bias toward the value of this process for America’s farm families. As a third generation farmer, you have the life experience to support your suggestions.
Bill writes:  

 “The article describing the Windmanns’ situation was interesting and probably typical of agribusinesses these days.

I, along with my brother and sister, are the third generation on our family’s 108 year old cow calf operation. The suggestions for the Windmann family are all on target, and Kevin sure hit the high spots. I would like to suggest a few other possible areas for family dialogue: 

  • Control is a central issue in the succession process; it should be discussed early.
  • Fair is not the issue, equitable is (fair is a subjective term; equitable is objective).
  • There is a difference between maintaining the business and keeping the land.
  • Planning is always good use of time.
  • Using a professional coach/facilitator can be helpful.
  • Schooling is good; a developed mentoring/intern program is better.
  • Other courses, seminars and workshops may be helpful.
  • Family meetings are okay; board meetings are better.
  • An agenda is always helpful; good records and notes are important.
  • Rotate administrative responsibilities regularly, every six months or year.
  • Do not confuse administration with leadership.
  • It is very difficult to separate the business from the family, so it is important to agree on which takes priority…

At 70 years old with 40+ years of business ownership, I’ve been involved with succession planning, leader development and operational growth/development. I’m not sure that makes me an expert; I’m just older than most…” 

Thanks again, Bill, for sharing your wisdom with us.
Wishing you and yours (and all of our Farm Journal
reader families) a wonderful Thanksgiving!

To Guide Productive Family Discussions:
Conversation Starters –   Legacy by Design planning tool
The Family Meeting  - Legacy by Design planning tool
I Want to be a Rancher– ‘Leave a Legacy’ for Farm Journal 05-2009

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Create a Custom Operation

Nov 20, 2009

For an aspiring agripreneur, becoming a custom operator may be the ideal opportunity to:

  -  learn the intricacies of farming
  -  develop good money management skills 
  -  establish good customer service habits
  -  develop a reputation for reliability
  -  create some business equity

Running a business is an excellent opportunity to develop the leadership skills necessary to eventually assume a management position in a larger family operation. Most families underestimate the value of off-farm experience. The self-employment opportunity or serving as an employee for someone else will better prepare a person to work within the family operation.
For Aspiring or Newly-Minted Leaders:
Staring Down SuccessionBy Jeanne Bernick for Farm Journal 12/2009
We Simply Want What’s Best – By Kevin Spafford for Farm Journal 10/2009

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Define Your Dream

Nov 17, 2009

“Dream and, as you dream, so will you become.”
My daughter Sara is an avid horse person. If you are, or have been around a person totally wrapped up in horses, you know what I mean. It’s like a fever for which the only cure is more exposure to the virus that caused the illness. Recently, I received an email from her about wanting a ‘new’ horse, one that she may use to ride competitively.
A little background here: Sara owns a horse (Lilly), she’s a full-time college student, and she lives away from home (insisting on paying her own expenses with a part-time job). She also volunteers considerable time teaching disabled students to ride, plus she just joined Sigma Alpha - an Ag sorority.
So my initial response to her desire was probably less than ideal. At first I was going to discourage her, and help her to focus on “what’s important.”

But, as I wrote the first line it dawned on me that her dream is what’s important…

Hmmmmm, it doesn't hurt to look. I'm not sure Lil needs a friend, as much as Sara needs a horse to ride... But follow your dreams, fella.
Dreams are not easy to achieve. That's why most people talk of them in lofty splendor, as something to think about but never do... When you dare to aim for achievement, dreams become goals. Then you translate goals into action plans, and an action plan is just a formalized to-do list. Each item on the to-do list is a stepping stone on the path to achievement.  
James Allen teaches us that, "dreams are the seedlings of reality." The thoughts you plant in your mind are the pictures of what you will become. If a person dreams of success, in any field of endeavor, and then solemnly works to fulfill that dream she will become that person - it is impossible not to. Like the acorn becomes an oak tree, she cannot do otherwise. Plant your goals firmly in your mind and you'll become whatever you desire. This is a law of nature. Nature's laws are absolute and undeviating.
Most of the time, the course is not clear---it's uncertain, and it's always difficult. At every turn, nature will test your resolve. So few achieve their dreams, and stop short because of the uncertainty and the difficulty. That's nature's way. If it were easy, it wouldn't be special and you wouldn't feel satisfied in the achievement.
Whatever you can dream, you can become.
That's a whole lot to say, I love you.

Build Your Dream:

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What's Stopping You?

Nov 13, 2009

In the not so distant past, a person had valid, if unstated, reasons for not designing and implementing a comprehensive succession strategy.

Back then...

1.  There was an overwhelming air of confusion between estate planning and succession planning. Though often used synonymously, an estate plan is designed to minimize the estate tax, and it’s done as an individual activity. Succession planning is designed to maintain the integrity of the operation, define a transition from one generation to the next, and allow farm to continue to endow the family for years to come (create a lasting legacy). Also - succession planning is family activity.

2.    Until now the only help available to agribusiness owners was local. So, if your accountant or the local attorney were not qualified to help with succession planning, it usually didn’t get done. Today, there are firms and professionals who specialize in the succession planning process and, with the advent of the internet, help is available - literally at your finger tips.

3.    There were no tools specifically for succession planning and, if a professional engaged in the process (see #2), the techniques employed may have been a bit primitive. Today there are firms and professionals who specialize in succession planning; some may even focus solely on the unique needs of a specific industry, as Legacy by Design does with agriculture.

4.    Even today most family operations are more focused on lifestyle than profit/return on investment. Enjoying our farming culture is what drives many of us who serve the agricultural community. Yet, with the rigors of day-to-day operation, success tomorrow will be based on good management, strong leadership, clear objectives, a growth/profit motive and a clear vision for the future.

5.    Tomorrow’s leaders need better training. Yesterday, good parenting and a strong back would suffice, but the pressures of running a successful operation---shrinking margins, environmental pressures, new legislation and limited resources---demand a more capable/competent leader with the management skills necessary to grow into the future. 

Today’s resources inform and guide the family through the succession planning process. What was once a rather limited sideline has become a refined professional specialization.  Help is accessible, and the planning process need not be frustrating and fruitless. 

A good place to start is to keep an eye out for information offered through the
Farm Journal Legacy Project. This long-term initiative is dedicated to providing good information, valuable tools and successful experiences.
Chances are, the questions that keep you awake at night are shared by many other families. Let us know what’s on your mind; we’ll do our darnedest to see that your concerns are addressed in upcoming issues and episodes.  

Resources through the Legacy Project:

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Job Descriptions = Effective Tools

Nov 10, 2009

An often overlooked, but critically important, step in positioning the operation for growth is a written job description for every position on the farm. Large or small, an organization can’t grow efficiently until each person knows their respective responsibilities and is held accountable for specific results.
Writing a job description is fairly straightforward. An owner/manager can start today, and enlist the help of the entire staff. Ask each person to record his/her job duties and responsibilities. You’ll use this information to create job titles (not boss/subordinate, rather roles within each position) and a specific list of corresponding responsibilities.
For the family business owner, recording the minimum education and experience for a respective job allows you to establish hiring guidelines, salary schedules and promotional prerequisites.
A well-conceived job description is an excellent tool for employee management. It can be used for recruiting, selecting and training new employees. The job description not only lists the specific duties of a particular position, it may also include a list of benefits, such as health insurance, housing, fuel and profit sharing.

Tools to Help You Get Started:

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Decisions and Actions

Nov 06, 2009

Lou Holtz, arguably one of the greatest football coaches of our time, often says, “The only difference between the person you are today, and who you’ll be tomorrow, is the people you meet and the books you read.” Though I would never disagree with his football prowess, I do apply a little different slant to his aphorism. His point is well intended, yet not completely true.
To change, improve or grow, a person has to want to change. Events only become life altering when and if they leave an indelible impression on the heart, body or mind.
Meeting a person or reading a book has no intrinsic value to teach unless or until we are ready and willing to learn. A person must be so inclined, and then apply themselves. Reading is a simple act, interacting with the message and then applying the information into worthwhile lessons is the key. 
Consider this alternative. “The only difference between the person you are today, and who you’ll be tomorrow, is the decisions you make and the actions you take.”
For Aspiring Leaders:

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A Time to Plan

Nov 03, 2009

If spring is the season for renewal, fall is the season to plan for renewal. As the owner of a growing agricultural operation, your focus is undoubtedly on harvest (especially in the rain-soaked Midwest), and then on a well spent holiday time of year.
These rainy days and the semi-quiet months ahead are the perfect time dust off your business plan and take a fresh look. Many of you will attend a number of the agribusiness seminars, workshops and shows. As you do, keep an open mind and a sharp eye, on the lookout for new business/production concepts, cutting-edge technologies and outrageous new ideas. Not everything you see and learn is valuable today, yet they all contain concepts, thoughts and potential solutions that may spark an idea for you.
As you think, study and prepare for next year, be mindful that: 
     -  A dynamic, aggressive plan is fun and motivating for you and employees alike. 

People always rise to the occasion (challenge) and perform best as a part of a team that is destine for greatness. 

     -  A fluid plan allows an aggressive enterprise to adapt to changing conditions, shifting resources, varying consumer trends, regulatory initiatives, and evolving capabilities. 

     -  Although you may refine your plan from one year to the next, don't lose track of your long-term goals and objectives.

While considering your renewed plan, examine every facet of your operation. A complete business plan will include:
1.     A single unifying vision
2.     Analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and the market
3.     Clearly defined goals
4.     Action plans to support each goal
5.     Budget to project income and manage expenses.
The bigger your vision and the better your plan, the more likely it will be to inspire others. 
More on Business Planning for the big picture

     -       Business Plan Self Assessment Legacy-by-Design.com

    -   Buy-Sell Review Legacy-by-Design.com

     -      A Lesson from the Golden Eggs – Leave a Legacy – Farm Journal 03/2008

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