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January 2012 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.

"How Much Can I Do on My Own?"

Jan 31, 2012

 Esther Family 07 2011From Legacy Moment (01/27/2012).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

It seems like the consummate question. Even if not vocalized, it may be buzzing around in your mind as you consider alternatives to a full-blown succession planning engagement. Questions may come up such as: "Can I do it myself?" or "I don’t think we need all of that, do we?"

Done right, the succession planning process will require an investment of your time, money and effort. Succession planning is not a once-and-done event. It is a series of experiences that move you, the operation and the family toward an eventual ownership transition. Along the way, you’ll realize more financial security, prepare the next generation to lead and strengthen the integrity of the operation.

The soundness of the plan will be based on the degree of your commitment. You must be willing to meet a planning professional in the middle, do some homework and act accordingly:

1. Select an adviser who will facilitate the process, build the appropriate team and ensure a suitable pace.

2. Follow a comprehensive planning process to ensure you achieve your ownership transition, financial security, leadership development and estate tax objectives.

3. Do not hesitate to consider any recommendation. Even disagreement merits a second opinion, so take that step if necessary.

4. Err on the side of overcommunication. Succession planning is a time to talk, listen and visit about potential solutions.

5. Know that each year your plan will be reviewed and refined to meet your goals, so there’s no reason not to start today.


News & Resources for You:

Looking for more information? A good starting point is the 2011 Legacy Report.

Not sure how to start the conversation? We can help.

The Legacy Project offers succession planning guidance for your family.


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Celebrating Our Farming Heritage

Jan 24, 2012

 Father and Son Ranchers   South Dakota   NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (01/20/2012).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

A report from the Farm Foundation, Agriculture’s Strategic Role in Feeding and Fueling a Growing World, notes: "Public understanding of agriculture has changed significantly over the last 75 years. The segment of the population engaged in agriculture has dwindled so that farm households now represent only a small share of all households in the U.S. At the same time, many consumers are increasingly concerned about how their food is produced. Some of these concerns are related to food safety, while others reflect…labor standards and animal treatment." 

It’s apparent that there’s a growing disconnect between producers and consumers. The report goes on to say, "Agricultural producers sometimes struggle to understand public attitudes." But that works both ways. As an industry, we need to demonstrate that family farmers:
  • efficiently produce a safe, reliable and secure food supply.
  • are good stewards of our environment and natural resources.
  • remain committed to the values, work ethic and lifestyle that made this country great.
Besides the growing disconnect, there are numerous threats affecting our farming heritage. Internally, most farms lose money, and many family farmers have off-farm careers to make ends meet. A full 70% of farms will not be passed on to a second generation. Of those that do get passed on, 90% will not make it to a third generation. And of those that do, 96% will not make it to a fourth.
Externally, there is a trend of attacks fueled by misinformation and exaggeration. Just pick up a newspaper or check the best-seller list. Many assert that America’s farming practices are heartless and irresponsible. Once a symbol of our nation’s abilities, agriculture has become a scapegoat for the national deficit, high food costs, an incoherent energy policy and obesity.
The family farm is in trouble. We must stand up as an industry and be counted. We must get better at telling our story. As a member of the farm community, you can help. Visit with your neighbors, speak at a Rotary gathering or write a blog. Engage with others and help them address their concerns.
Together we can save our farm economy before it goes the way of manufacturing, logging, maritime, fishing and other industries. But it will take a team of concerned individuals determined to make a difference. Can you help your family members take the actions necessary to ensure lasting success? Can you help them answer the call for transparency? The following tools may help:
Strategic business plan. Difficult to write, but invaluable for growing an operation. You can provide an objective point of view and specialized knowledge.
Operational documents (operating agreement, family employment policy, job descriptions, employee handbook). Running a farm more like a business and less like a family potluck can help to separate business and emotional issues.
Professional development. This can benefit each member of the farm management team. The industry is moving at lightning speed and demands leaders.
Community outreach. Farms don’t thrive in a vacuum. Community service and public relations (adopt-a-school; agritourism) encourage transparency.
Strengthen the family unit. Farm families must protect their financial security, inform members of transition plans and improve plans as goals are achieved.
Each of these components celebrates our farming heritage. They protect our nation’s food sovereignty, promote agriculture as a profession, pass viable family farming operations on to the next generation and counteract uninformed special interests. You can help to fortify the food industry in the U.S.
News and Resources For You:

Ready to create the farm operation of your dreams?  Begin now with a set of common objectives.
The next Legacy Project Workshops are only a month away.  Register now for Bowling Green, KY or Lancaster, PA (or call 877-482-7203).

Some have questioned whether there is a good future ahead for those who study agriculture.  We think there is.  How about you?
Watch the latest Leave a Legacy online now, and meet a family dedicated to each other, to their farm, and to the agricultural community.
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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

Key Employees in the Conversation

Jan 18, 2012

Iowa with 3 men   NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (01/13/2012).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

"Key employee" is one of those self-explanatory terms. Any person who is critical to your organization may be a key employee. When the term is used loosely, most people think of long-term and/or loyal employees, but that might not be correct. A well tenured employee may be valuable to the organization, yet not necessarily ‘key’ to its continuing success. A key employee is crucial to operational success. He or she possesses skills, abilities and/or intellect that may be very difficult and expensive to replace or replicate.

On the farm, a key employee may have specific knowledge, unique talents or unconventional expertise that may allow you to focus on other areas of the operation. He or she may permit you to create a marketable value proposition that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Your key employee may be your shadow, a person with a good head for business, building a team and growing the operation—someone you can rely on no matter what.
Thorough succession planning will include a discussion about key employees and their role in your operation. Like other assets of the operation, human capital is crucial to success. Experience takes time to gain and expert abilities cost an inordinate amount of money. The loss of a key employee during the process of transition may be detrimental to the business. It could jeopardize financial strength, management capabilities and alliance relationships.
Keep in mind that just as a business owner is concerned about retaining the key employee, the key employee is also wondering about job security and changing roles during the succession planning process.
The key employee wants to know:
• Is my commitment to the operation appropriate?
• Are my contributions recognized and appreciated?
• What role will the new management successor fill?
As you wade into the succession planning arena, make sure to include your key employees in the discussion.

News & Resources for You:

Retaining key employees Is vital to the success of your business. 

If you’re headed to a Legacy Project Workshop in 2012, why not have your key employees join you?
Vince Lombardi proclaimed, "Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all-the-time thing." As you and your family strive for all-the-time success, do you have a comprehensive plan in place? 
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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS


What Will Be the Hallmark of Your 2012?

Jan 10, 2012

Frost Iowa NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (01/06/2012).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

Staring down the barrel of a new year can be intimidating. For farmers, the winter months may be a time of anticipation, when folks attend workshops and trade shows to improve the operation and learn about the latest advancements. Before the non-urgency lulls you into a ‘looks like, feels like last year’ type of comfort, take a few moments to consider using this time to initiate your succession plan.

Among the many emails we have received, we’ve had some say it’s too late, others say it’s time and still others say they're glad they forged ahead. Succession isn’t about off-the-shelf solutions. It is about planning the outcome you want, working to achieve your ultimate goals and establishing a lasting family legacy.

Before it’s too late, take a lesson from these folks: 

"We have lost the most important thing there is—the love of family! And it was all 100% preventable! Please continue all of your hard work—we would never wish for another family farm to face the destruction and heartache that we went through."    

"If you would have told us we would be where we are at today, we would have laughed. All of us think we have it all together, but it can creep up so fast you don’t know what hit you!!!"  

"If we could say one thing to other family farms, it’s communicate and have a succession plan in place! Please. It’s really ‘cheap insurance’ for the multiple families’ years of hard work and legacy!"

Because once it’s gone, you’re not getting it back. And we all want it to stay in the family.  

"It would be a shame if we let all the hard work of our previous generations slip away due to our failed planning." 

"We all want the farm to stay in the family and yet be as fair as possible for the three siblings. As you most likely know, this is an emotional and difficult project, but we would like to have a good idea and thought process in mind."

"We three siblings have been working at a solution which would be beneficial to all of us and continue the farming operation as our parents would have wanted. Of course, as with any family farm situations, there are many personalities and emotions to consider and deal with effectively."

So, if you don’t know where to start: 

"It’s like this (Legacy Project) was sent from heaven. The information is concise, we understand it, and it has made us realize that we need to get started."  

"I cannot tell you how much we appreciate what you are doing for American farm families. Your work recognizes something that most don't see, the dynamics of families, and how fragile the farming system becomes when we stress those relationships."

The Farm Journal Legacy Project is dedicated to cultivating multigenerational success in the ag community.

News & Resources for You:

Through Legacy Certified Advisors™, we provide hometown service from coast to coast. Ready to learn more?

New Year, new workshop opportunities for you and your family. Register online or call (877) 482-7203.

Missed some episodes of the award-winning "Leave a Legacy TV"?  Browse archived episodes online. 

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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

When Is a New Year's Resolution Not Merely a Resolution?

Jan 03, 2012


PA Farm   USDA ARSFrom Legacy Moment (12/30/2011).
Please join us for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

Answer: When it’s followed by action. The proverbial New Year’s resolution is nothing more than an opportunity to banter about your bucket list, a new diet program or some kind of behavioral change. Though well intended, most are dead on delivery. Resolutions are supposed to be about commitment and real change. So this year, how about trying something new?

Gather the family together, in person or using some form of technology, and commit to engage in the succession planning process. Express your concerns about the future and inform them that you intend to see the farm continue as a family legacy. Invite them to become part of the process and involve them in your quest.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time, it’s now. If you’re looking for the right information, it’s available through the Farm Journal Legacy Project. 2012 is a time for action:

News & Resources for You:
You can use our Legacy Project tools to refine your current plan and/or get a second opinion.
Legacy Certified Advisers provide hometown succession planning services for farm families throughout the nation. To learn more, email or call [(877) 523-7411] to schedule a complimentary phone consultation.
Whenever you're ready to get started, we’re here to help.
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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
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