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Froese: How to help founders get transition plans moving

Now is the time to check your mindset and consider how you can create certainty for yourself and the next generation

Long harvest hours give you time to think about what is working on your farm and what needs to be tweaked. Our thoughts drive our actions. It’s time to check your mindset to consider how you can create more certainty for yourself as the owner, and the next generation that wants a piece of equity along with certainty for the future.

Here’s some mindset shifts:

  • Curiosity. Approach conversations with a desire to find out what the common interest is for you and the next generation. You likely all want a profitable farm, harmonious working relationships, and a clear direction for the growth of the business. Ask, “I am just curious, what is it we all want?”
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  • Stop judging. Adopt a learner mindset and ask, “What am I responsible for?”
  • Embrace choices. We all get to choose our response when pressed with tough questions. Choose to be kind, gracious, and patient.
  • Challenge your advisers. Do this as you build your team of experts to guide you. Use time on the combine/tractor/truck to talk about timelines for getting your transition planning done. Call your lawyer for updates on your will and power of attorney.
  • Think about what is a fair exchange of value. The Canada Ag Partnership program may have some funds available to you for financing succession/transition planning. If you still do not have a will you are being foolish. You need to pay for services to protect your family and your future well-being.
  • Be proactive and ahead of the game rather than reactive. Communication with your farm team and your family is the first step. Don’t wait for accidents, health issues or external threats to your business to force your hand.

Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead says, “Being clear is kind.” It’s time to explore three key things:

Your roles on the farm as you age. What does a good day on the farm look like to you after the harvest of 2020? What roles would you like for your spouse, business partners, and siblings?

What do you want to let go of? Handling the books? Crop production decisions? Debt?

What do you want to teach the next generation? How are you intentionally being the wise elder mentor? The successor needs a learning plan, especially understanding how to farm the numbers of the business.

Farm families often tell me their main desire for coaching is to have better communication between the generations. Consider talking about:

  • Income streams. Money is a key source of tension and when there is not enough for basic living and debt servicing, something needs to shift. How transparent are you with all of the finances, personal and the farm? Why are you holding back?
  • Conflict avoidance. It’s high time to talk about the tough issues you have been avoiding. Third-party facilitators are a good investment to help you get clear about what needs to be resolved. They can also help model family meetings so you can do them on your own. Do you remember what it was like to own your first piece of land? Your ability to put yourself in the next generation’s shoes and have their perspective will help your conflict communication.
  • Assumption-free living. Love does not read minds so quit making assumptions about what the other generation is thinking, needing, feeling and wanting. The best way to challenge assumptions is to ask better questions with grace and kindness.
  • Share the vision of the farm. Are you willing to accept a new way of doing things? Can growth continue with different strategies? Are you excited for the next generation to succeed? Can you accept that different is not wrong, just different?
  • Jot down timelines. Many folks are more productive and efficient when they have deadlines or target dates to aim for. Can you work out some dates that you will honour so planners can have timelines that are workable?
  • Be empathetic. Farm women typically are caught between their spouses and their adult children as referees and they are tired of that game. Seeking to truly understand the concerns of everyone on your farm team is a game-changer approach.

Talk does not cook rice. It’s time to act on your transition plan.

  • Focus and execute. Take one piece of the journey and just start making your way with small steps. You can break down the many pieces of the plan.
  • Communicate. Start having more conversations. Formalize them with a family meeting. Set a date for the end of October or early November when harvest wraps up and you’ve had a few days to rest.
  • Call some folks who have done the succession transition well. You can visit with them on the phone while you wait in the truck, or combine.
  • Be outcome focused. Visualize what you truly want to see happen. See challenges as opportunity for growth and clarity.
  • Be kind to yourself and practise good self-care. Harvest can be hectic but it also can have great spaces of solitude for thinking. Shut off the country music. Watch the hawks. Have a good talk with yourself.
  • Set some healthy boundaries. This is just like the fencelines or survey markers. Model a culture of respect by choosing your language and tone carefully. Have zero tolerance for profanity. You get the behaviour that you accept.

Procrastination is killing agriculture. Way too many families are drifting with no clarity of expectations of each other or the future. If your excuse is that you are “too busy to plan” then I am here to bust all excuses. The farming calendar will always be full if that is the mindset you are buying into. Productive people are positive, communicate well and set deadlines for action. Break your transition tasks into small chunks and keep walking the journey. Who do you need to call today?

Watch my video and podcast with Tracy Brunet of Impact Farming or just Google Impact Farm Marketer Transition Planning Secrets of Success for Founders w/Elaine Froese. I’m happy to keep you company on the combine!

About the author

Contributor

Elaine Froese is a certified farm family coach and farm partner. Seek her out at www. elainefroese.com or call 1-866-848-8311. Buy her books for your mom. Share your stories of how these phrases have impacted you. Elaine wants to hear from you on Facebook at “farm family coach” or Twitter @elainefroese.

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