The start of a New Year is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and firm up your plans for the new one. As you look to 2018, consider developing a farm succession plan if you don’t already have one in place.
If you find the idea totally overwhelming, know that you aren’t alone. In a Farm Journal survey on succession, 80% of farmers said they plan to transfer control of their operation to the next generation, yet fewer than 20% said they are confident they have a good plan in place.
Resources are available at farmjournallegacyproject.com to help you jump-start a successful transition process.
In addition, consider retaining a professional consultant as you start the planning process—just make sure you work with someone who is skilled at working through the complexities of farm enterprises.
As you evaluate next steps, consider using a simple framework called the S-M-A-R-T strategy to work through the process. Here’s a quick overview.
Specific. Identify the goals you and your family want to accomplish with a succession plan. Consider the ideal situation for each member of your family, both vocationally and financially. All too often, people sacrifice opportunity and impose constraints by thinking first and only of money. It’s equally important to carefully consider what kind of life you want to build for yourself and your loved ones.
Creating success with your succession plan requires some quality communication within the family. Set up regular family meetings, scheduled at a time that is convenient for most participants, and use a location that is not home turf for anyone.
Create an agenda with each participant offering suggestions and concerns. Establish ground rules, and conclude discussions with some form of action and agreement for follow-up.
Measurable. Write down each goal you set, so you can compare progress and quantify degrees of achievement. Include as many details about each goal as possible.
Actionable. Nothing happens until you take action. Wishes, wants and intentions will not help you achieve your goals; only by acting can you generate a result.
Relevant. Judge your goals based on priority, and then act on the goals in the order that will make the most impact.
Time-bound. Set deadlines for measurable action. Consider pairing one person to each goal, whether it is business planning or simply setting up the next family meeting.
Along the way, focus on what you really want to achieve in the end. A good succession plan is far more than a financial or business arrangement. It’s a road map for ensuring continued support, security and growth for you, your family and your operation.