Rena Striegel: Succession Planning Takes Leadership

09:30AM Dec 05, 2019
Rena Striegel
As a business coach, Rena Striegel works with farm families in the areas of strategic planning, business succession and leadership development.
( Farm Journal Media )

Succession planning is not synonymous with words such as fun, simple or quick. We all recognize the process of planning for leadership and ownership transition is just that — a process. It takes time, knowledge and smart professionals. Most of all, it takes leadership.

Whether you are just now embarking on your succession journey or are somewhere in the middle, remember the four Cs: clarity, certainty, continuity and communication.


In the beginning, transitioning leaders need to determine what they want for themselves and for the operation. Then, they must talk with the stakeholders to determine their expectations.

Many families make the mistake of attempting to develop a plan by guessing what family members want rather than asking them directly. Assumptions made at the beginning of the process are often the source of big disappointments later. Remember, your team will open up more easily when these conversations are held individually rather than as a group.


Often families are not in perfect agreement about how succession should take place, which can cause family leaders to become uncertain. As hard as it might seem, family leaders must often make decisions that are not going to be popular with everyone. When leaders abdicate authority and power to others, often the situation becomes more confusing and difficult. If you keep the initial goals in mind, it will be easier to know how to navigate the planning process.


Once you start the process of succession planning, keep going! It can take up to two years to develop a plan. The actual succession can take another 10 years depending on the time horizon a transitioning leader expects to keep working. During this time, it can be easy to lose momentum. Work with your professional team to develop milestones to keep everyone focused and on track.


A communication strategy should be built into your succession plan. When you are developing your timeline, establish when you will communicate progress to the rest of the family. If this seems daunting, work with your professional team to develop a consistent communication plan. Family members need to know progress is being made even when there isn’t a lot to communicate.

With strong leadership in each of the four Cs, families move through the succession planning process with less stress, an increased level of trust and a higher level of communication.

Hear from Rena by attending our Legacy Project Conference Jan. 28 in Chicago, Ill. To learn more and register, visit