Tools for Success

May 20, 2011 08:30 AM


The Farm Journal Legacy Project website houses many tools that are very useful in the succession planning process. Check them out!

Estate Planning

Trust/Will Review: This checklist is intended to encourage discussion about trusts and wills. It is only meant for discussion, and is not all-inclusive.
Buy/Sell Review: With so many components involved, it makes sense to periodically review your buy-sell agreement.  This review tool will help you assess the viability of your current  agreement and identify those areas that should be updated. It can also be used to ensure any new agreement you draft includes (or at least considers) the relevant points, provisions, and mechanisms. 

Ready for Succession

Succession Planning Self-Assessment: As you begin to consider succession planning objectives, answering these 20 statements may help you to identify your key priorities and potential first steps. 
Ready for Succession: Are you ready for succession? This short quiz will help you determine what your priorities should be.
Retirement Income and Expenses: Do you know how much retirement will cost you? Do you know if your income will meet your expenses? Financial security depends on an honest assessment of what you're likely to have and what you expect to need. Use the worksheet below to capture your estimated retirement income and expenses.

Leadership Development

Establishing a Family Employment Policy: A family employment policy:
·         Spells out the criteria for hiring and employing family members.
·         Helps to instill a business-like environment for all family members participating in the business.
·         Allows managing family members to base decisions on a written policy rather than emotional impulse.
·         Details minimum requirements family members must attain to be considered for employment in the family business.
Leadership Skills Inventory: Leadership may be the single biggest gap in any succession plan. Today the opportunity and obligation to run the operation belongs to the controlling generation. Tomorrow it may be sons, daughters, managers and/or key employees in charge. How ready is each person to lead? Use the inventory below to capture a current assessment of each potential leader's skills, strengths and areas for growth. The results should serve as the starting point for building a tailored development plan for each individual, and a strong leader for tomorrow.

Business Continuity

Job Description Template: One aspect of effective succession planning and leadership development is to fit the best candidate to each operational role, and ensure that everyone involved is clear about the position's qualifications and expectations. Non-emotional, objective decisions promote rational, consistent and fair outcomes. Emotion as a motivator is necessary, but it must be tempered with prudent thought – committed to writing.
Merger Candidate Evaluation: The following is a list of business issues for you to consider when determining the suitability of a potential merger partner. Assign a numerical value of 1 to 5 (5 is most important) to each item. This will help to assess the opportunity, based on a consistent set of criteria. 
Merger Candidate Interview Guide: Use this interview guide when considering a merger. Utilizing a questionnaire to interview prospective merger candidates will standardize the process and prompt an informed decision about the prospective company.
Selecting an Adviser: Selecting an adviser isn’t always easy, but it is very important. Here's a brief interview guide to help you identify an adviser who can facilitate your family's succession planning process.

Overcoming Obstacles

Life Insurance Needs Analysis: The potential devastation from untimely death is not worth the risk. This threat can be financially devastating to even the most sound operation. Planning for sudden contingencies is critical to agribusiness financial health, employee peace of mind and your family's financial security. Life insurance is designed to provide money at the very time it is needed most.
Disability Insurance Needs Analysis: The potential devastation from an unforeseen disability is not worth the risk. This threat can be financially devastating to even the most sound operation. Planning for sudden contingencies is critical to agribusiness financial health, employee peace of mind and your family's financial security. Disability insurance is designed to provide money at the very time it is needed most.
Ready for Retirement?: Are you ready to retire? It is important that you and your family answer vital questions in determining if the time is right for retirement or not. Answer this assessment with your family to decide if retirement is in the near future.

Fair vs. Equal Exercise: This worksheet is simply a tool for exploration, and intended for conversation purposes only. The decisions surrounding equal versus fair can confound your best intentions. Though we can't devise a simple worksheet that addresses every scenario, we feel this one facilitates conversation, and allows the family to engage in constructive dialogue around this sensitive subject.


Family Meeting Agenda: It is extremely important to hold family meetings that include agendas. If an agenda is present, the meeting will seem more structured, will likely be less emotional and will hopefully stay on task. Check out this example of a family meeting agenda.
Goals Clarification Worksheet: Most farmers and agribusiness owners seem to have a good idea of what they want to achieve when they think about succession. Yet their ideas may be a bit fuzzy and undefined. As they describe their desires they use general terms, and tend to say, ‘you-know' a lot. The struggle comes in trying to turn intentions into goals; goals into actions; and actions into results. If we can help you create specific goals you can take the action necessary to move to the next step.
Conversation Starters: The success of a succession plan is strongly influenced by the quality and the quantity of communication within the family. We recommend regular family meetings, scheduled at a time that is convenient for most participants. Use a location that is not ‘home turf' for anyone. Create and distribute an agenda in advance, encouraging each participant to offer modifications, suggestions and/or additional concerns. Establish ground rules – Robert's Rules of Order may be a little stiff, but mutual respect, common courtesy and banning personal attacks may help. Always conclude with some form of action and agreement for follow-up. When it's time to talk about succession, distributing these ‘conversation starters' in advance may help each family member consider and then share their succession goals and aspirations. 

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