7 Questions to Ask Before You Hire

7 Questions to Ask Before You Hire

How to build a collaborative and qualified succession planning team

Succession planning is not a do-it-yourself undertaking. A professional and collaborative succession planning team will make all the difference for your family, says Johnne Syverson, a family business consultant with Transition Point Business Advisors in West Des Moines, Iowa. 

“No transition plan should be done by a single adviser because no one person has all the answers,” he says.

Interviewing potential advisers before hiring them is a good best practice, Syverson says. Use this guide from the Legacy Project Workbook:

  • What is your experience facilitating the succession planning process?
  • What qualifies you as a succession planning specialist?
  • How long have you provided succession planning advice?
  • Do you understand the succession needs of a farm owner? 
  • How many farm families have you helped with succession planning?
  • Do you use a defined planning model and process?
  • How do you get paid for services?

“Farm families aren’t that much different than other family-owned businesses,” he says. “But you want someone who is used to working with the dynamics in a farming situation.”

Look at your current advisers and assess their technical knowledge and interest in being involved. Your team could include an accountant, attorney, insurance agent, financial planner and/or conflict resolution specialist. 

You will also need a quarterback for your advisory team to keep the process moving and everyone informed, 
Syverson notes. “This shouldn’t be you,” he adds. “Instead, appoint one of your advisers. If you don’t, everyone on the team will try to serve as the quarterback.” 

To propel your plan, Syverson suggests having the team work together regularly. “You can get more done in three hours with all of your advisers in the same room than three weeks of you meeting with each person individually,” he says. “Otherwise, you get confused and nothing happens.”

Be on guard for a sales pitch rather than counsel, Syverson notes. “Succession planning is not a product; it is a process,” he says. 

Also, be realistic about the time commitment for the succession planning process. “It can take five to 10 to 15 years, depending on where you are at in the cycle,” he says.

Download the “Selecting an Adviser” interview guide as well as other succession planning tools and resources at www.FarmJournalLegacyProject.com/tools


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