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August 2013 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.

Will a Trust Help?

Aug 20, 2013

Ranch   Microsoft PhotoFrom Legacy Moment (08.16.2013).
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A trust? What are you trying to accomplish?  

To many, the holy grail of succession planning is found in the technical jargon and platitudes of some professional discipline. They think that an expert has certain credentials and hails from far away. The collective thought might be, since so much rests on legal documents, tax forms and financial matters, a person must be endowed with a special acronym to help the family plan. I think that's another form of resigning power, or to put it another way, rendering yourself powerless.

Please don't ever forget, you're in charge! You control the outcome. Though a defined planning process should be followed, the plan itself must be based on your goals and help you to realize your dreams. All too often we fall victim to the aura and the charisma of a professional title. My aim is to reinforce your power and put you squarely in charge. I've been offering you the information, tools and experience you need to achieve success through the Farm Journal Legacy Project for more than four years. With that offer comes a reciprocal responsibility for action.

Throughout the years, I've found people don't struggle with what is a trust [noun]; they struggle with how to trust [verb]. They don't struggle with the tax implications of a sale/gift; they struggle with the who, how much, and when. They don't struggle with the dollars available for retirement; they struggle with when to retire and how best to prepare the next generation. Though a multidisciplinary team of professionals is necessary to help you weigh your options, select the right course of action and implement a solution, the plan must be based on your goals, not some professional's level of competence.

Your professional advisers should have the right qualifications, which include (among other things) an understanding of farming, business, family, management, leadership, succession planning, legal issues, tax implications and financial matters. Though each professional on the team will not be fluent in every subject, they should be comfortable in how each works together to achieve success. It will be helpful if the advisers are at ease in a family meeting and allow a free flow of conversation. They should understand the value of setting common goals and the need to work through certain thorny yet necessary issues.

Don't ever forget—it's your plan. Your future, the family and the farm depend on the decisions you make and the actions you take.  

News & Resources for You:

Are you growing success?

Have you pinpointed your goals?

Plan now to secure your farm for future generations.

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What Makes a Great Company?

Aug 13, 2013

Aerial of Michigan Farms   USDA NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (09.09.2013).
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for future issues,
delivered via email each Friday.

 Beyond the latest fad promoted by the popular press and business best sellers, great companies are more than well-known brands. Given a moment, we can all think of exemplary businesses—the local tire shop, a nice restaurant, a locally owned franchise, your insurance agency—even a municipality may qualify. Though you may not have quantified the reasons, many of the companies you patronize fall into the 'great' category. So, what makes a business great? What are the identifiable business traits you admire?

  • Is it good customer service? Do you feel welcome? Do the employees engage you in meaningful conversation? Though you don't necessarily have to feel like a friend, are you confident the business is there to solve your problems?
  • Is there an atmosphere of innovation? Does this company use the latest technology and the best service systems? Are they on the leading edge and employing a process of continuous improvement?
  • Is the product line and level of service of a consistent quality? Can you be assured that when new products or services are introduced, they meet or exceed a certain standard?
  • Do the employees act in concert and work as a team? Do they generate confidence that each person is part of a larger whole and dedicated to providing a solution for the customer?
  • Are you assured that the operation is stable and well-balanced? Are they positioned to continue delivering on their promise for years to come? Does the organization have a history of experience and a long planning horizon? Does management 'appease the moment' or do they have a long view and base decisions on consequential effect?

From this brief list and using your own examples, how can you ensure that your business—yes, the family farm—becomes a great company? Please write to 'Ask Kevin' and let me know.  

News & Resources for You: 

Professional development is one essential element of strong farm leadership.

Common goals expressed in a business plan will guide you to implement your vision.

Test-drive eLegacyConnect as your go-to resource for succession planning guidance.  

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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

Only the Contour of the Land Remains the Same

Aug 06, 2013

Harvesting hay   contour strips   WI   USDA NRCSFrom Legacy Moment (08.02.2013).
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... and even that's changing.  

Beyond driving a tractor, you learned about persistence and perseverance at the knee of a hard-working adult. An ability to adapt can be the difference between survival and extinction. If you're part of the younger generation, you might remember hearing murmured conversations over which bills to pay as your family weathered the farm disaster of the '80s. Or you might recall how the farm was managed when your grandparents still made all the decisions. Although some things might ring familiar, a lot has changed.

If you're in the middle or senior generation, no one has to remind you how much is different from the way it used to be. Market dynamics, farming practices, land values, consumer demands and technology are among the factors that both offer opportunity and test your ability to adapt. Generational transition can be a challenge on the road to multigenerational success. And, yet again, your ability to adjust and flex with the demands of the process will play a direct role in your results. As Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) likes to say, "There are only two kinds, the quick and the dead."

If you're dependent on the success of the operation, it's your responsibility to initiate the succession planning discussion. No matter which rung on the generation ladder you hold, it's in your best interest to start the process and enlist others in your family. I recommend you use tractor time soon to think about how and when you'll enlist the rest of the family to participate in succession planning. Remember, the keys to success are:

1. Start with a family meeting.
2. Define common goals.
3. Overcome the obstacles that most families must face.
4. Utilize a defined planning process.
5. Commit to continuing the process—no matter how much you're require to adapt.

The future of the farm and your family depend on your effort.  

News & Resources for You: 

Get started now to become the leader you aspire to be.

Don't let the pitfalls stand in the way of your achievement.

Find the solutions you need to ensure long-term success for your family farm.

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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
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