Is Your Family Ready?

February 5, 2012 09:04 PM

Succession planning has to start somewhere

The Farm Journal Legacy Project Workshops are hands-on efforts designed to help you begin to plan for succession. With that in mind, each workshop addresses the critical issues in planning and reviews the keys to success. Parti-cipants are welcome to share their concerns and suggestions, and interactive keypads solicit input from the audience.

The interactive questions in the presentation reveal that most families have never had a meeting to discuss succession. Although many families are ready to commit, they are uncertain about who should or should not initiate the succession planning discussion.

Three questions asked at each workshop play out as follows:

1. Have you ever had a family meeting to discuss succession?
In the last three workshops (Kansas City; Bloomington, Ill.; and Memphis), we’ve learned that 64% of participants have not yet held a family meeting, while 36% have had at least some form of succession dialogue.

Family communication is vital in the succession planning process. Yet for most people it is uncharted territory; they assume the conversation will be loaded with land mines and end in disaster.

Every family meeting should include a simple, yet well-defined agenda. The first meeting should cover the basics of succession planning. Agree upon acceptable behaviors and the decision-making process. Each meeting should conclude with a follow-up date and tasks assigned to family members.

A frequent concern is who should be involved in the family meetings. All family members who are active in or dependent on the farm and their spouses should be invited.

Each meeting should be held in a neutral location (not home turf), and there should be a time limit. Discussing the future of the operation should prove to be exciting.

2. Whose responsibility is it to initiate the succession planning process?
An overwhelming 74% of participants in the last three workshops said the senior generation should initiate the process. Only 19% picked the middle generation and 7% suggested the younger generation should initiate the process.

Starting the succession planning process has pros and cons for each generation. The senior generation must be comfortable that the decisions that will be made will not destroy the family and the process will generate desirable results.

The middle generation is often the most vulnerable; the lack of a plan could be devastating. Starting over is not an option.

The younger generation has the most options. Looking for other work in the industry is rather simple when you’re 27.

Regardless of which generation you represent, if you’re dependent on the success or failure of the farm, it is your responsibility to initiate the process.

3. Are you ready for the succession planning process?
Most workshop participants (85%) are confident and have a realistic expectation regarding their family’s readiness to engage in the succession planning process.

Are you uncertain about your readiness? Take the Succession Planning Self-Assessment, which covers the 20 most important topics in the succession planning process

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