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How to build a succession planning team

A professional 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.

Most farmers will need to hire professionals to help. Interviewing potential advisers before hiring them is important, Syverson says. At a recent Farm Journal Legacy Project Workshop, he provided these interview questions 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 your 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.”

Most farmers have a team of advisers, such as an accountant, attorney, lead facilitator, insurance agent, certified financial planner, banker and conflict resolution specialist. 

To propel your plan, Syverson suggests having the team regularly work together. “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 from each person’s advice and nothing happens.”

Also, be on guard for a sales pitch rather than advice and counsel, Syverson notes. “Succession planning is not a product; it is a process,” he says. “It can take five to 10 to 15 years, depending on where you are at in the cycle.”  

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