If you’re fighting storms or sorting cows, grab five minutes to soak this story in. You cannot neglect tending to the needs of your cows. Let’s talk about embracing the same urgency with your farm transition conversations.
My speaker friend Shelle Rose Charvet, author of Words that Change Minds, has tools for better language that persuades and influences. Here’s a suggestion you may wish to consider. Stop using the word “problem” and start saying, “What do we really want for the future of this farm?”
‘Problem’ is now an ‘objective’
If you see farm succession as a problem, how about shifting to specific transition objectives. For instance, a first objective is to get wills signed and power of attorney documents. This is a basic business risk management strategy for the founders and the successors. Objectives are targets and tangible goals. The benefits of taking action are that you’ll create movement. Start with baby steps. Are you not tired of rehashing problems? The will document will be changed as agreements are confirmed over time. Having a will is better than no will!
‘Why’ is now ‘how’
Instead of asking why a situation is stuck, ask, “How would you like to move forward?” Sharing your intentions, your “why” in transition is important to you is a good place to start. When you are asking about “HOW,” you are creating solutions for a process to move. How would you like to proceed? How comfortable are you hiring a third-party facilitator to help us actually have conversations that get somewhere?
Shifting ‘limits’ to ‘possibilities’
Talk about tough issues is to play with possibility and not prejudge the outcome. What limiting beliefs are keeping you stuck with anxiety and overwhelm? Are you afraid the next generation is bound to have financial failure? Have they not proved to you they have great management skills, passion, drive, and commitment to the business? Do you come from a place of scarcity thinking rather than abundance? Love does not read minds. Assuming you know the other team member’s thoughts, dreams, desires, and goals is foolish. When you work with an experienced adviser you have the benefit of seeing many possibilities because the adviser has seen many workable succession/transition scenarios.
Charvet suggests that to get people to go somewhere with you, you need to meet them where they are, and not just pretend they are already where you want them to be. She says, “go to their bus stop, and from their bus stop, invite them on the bus.” Another way of saying this is, look at your aging mother and father and consider what farm life looks like from their perspective. As they age they need a steady income stream, a decent place to live, and a way to ensure they can have resources to give them a great 20 more years, and also take care of their inheritance expectations. Are your parents motivated for things to stay the same, or are they willing to experiment with small gradual changes that eventually transfer the labour, management and ownership of farm assets to the next generation?
‘Failure’ now becomes ‘feedback’
There needs to be a shift in the culture of agriculture from failure thinking to the outcome of decision-making with really good feedback. When you make a mistake, is the culture on your farm one of creating solutions or just yelling, blaming and shaming? When you are mature in your emotions and language you can give feedback about how close you are to creating better outcomes. Tax specialists who do good work will save farmers heaps of tax, yet farmers who are afraid of failure don’t choose to pay for professional tax efficiency help, and these farmers get caught with expensive mistakes unable to navigate the tax system. They are the ones who do their own accounting, buy inputs or equipment to “save tax” and then get shocked when they are not ready to be strategic about farm tax laws they were not aware of.
So, if you are ready to let go of your fear of failure, embrace the outcome model of dealing with difficult feedback and ask your advisers for financial transparency and sound feedback. The longer timeline you have to plan for tax execution the better; don’t let this decision be made by a heart attack, cancer, stroke or accident!
‘No movement’ shifts to ‘movement’
What filters of prejudice or prejudgment are you making with the successor or founder rather than coming from curiosity? Watch my video on YouTube, “Discuss the Undiscussabull,” where coming from curiosity is a key tool for talking about tough issues. When I was 11 years into our marriage, sitting with my in-laws at the accountant’s office, the accountant said, “Pretend Elaine is not in the room. I am just curious what you would do with the farm if your son, Elaine’s husband, was killed in an accident?” No drama followed, just a brief comment from me that my intention was to keep farming to give our children a chance to farm. My in-laws switched quickly from “taking back the farm” to a stance of “sounds good Elaine that you stay farming.” All of this came out quickly by using the language of “I am just curious… ”
There is a good reason why our online course is called “Get Farm Transition Unstuck.” Many families are stuck with procrastination, overwhelm, and a high degree of anxiety trying to avoid conflict. You want to switch your thinking and situation from no movement to movement. As you can only deal with so much information at one time, it’s important to have someone act as the driver of your transition process. The driver calls the family business meetings, makes appointments with advisers, and keeps track of the binder of plans.
Start filling your binder with your decisions, one step at a time:
- Action items, meetings;
- Accounting tax;
- Lifestyle plan (from your financial planner);
- Lawyer wills and estate;
- Coaching communication (conflict profiles);
- Loans, credit, banking;
- Business plan.
This planning binder will be a great tool to keep you on track. Act now!