Are you being held hostage by your family? Part 2

You may be holding someone in your family hostage – or you may be that hostage.

In last week’s post, I talked about how when there’s no clear path for the farm’s future, the next generation might start to feel like they’re being ‘held hostage.’ You might want to read that post first to get some background on what I’ll be discussing here.

This week, I’d like to explore a bit more on how you can tell if you’re a hostage, and how to know if you might be holding someone else hostage in your family farm business.

Warning signs

There are usually a few warning signs that you’re a hostage. On one farm, expectations were set for the son early on: ‘Someday, this farm will all be yours.’

However, over the years, there was no sign of a plan being put in place – or any steps toward a transfer. The son considered how he thought he would be a lot further along by this point. His feelings of being held hostage by his family grew.

If you have similar feelings, keep this in mind: You’re a hostage only if you express your feelings to those who have the power to change the situation – and nothing changes. But if you have these feelings and don’t express them to the person or people who can make the changes happen, you may be playing the role of a victim. Only you have the power to change that.

You’re in control to make sure the person with power in the situation knows the way you are feeling. This likely means having a crucial conversation – or several – with those who have the power.

Take the time to clearly express what you’ve been feeling and why. Decide on action steps – such as starting a legacy plan for the farm’s future – and create timelines for those steps to take place. Open, clear communication – and taking action to solve issues – can often help to resolve a ‘hostage’ situation on the farm.

How’s your plan?

Has reading this made you wonder if you might be holding a member of the next generation on your farm hostage?

Do you have a business plan in place for where your farm operation is headed? Do you have a legacy plan that includes the timeframes for your retirement, and how you’re going to transfer your knowledge to the next generation? Have you ever told the next generation that the farm will be theirs someday, but you just haven’t been able to transfer aspects of the operation – in terms of assets or control – to them?

When there’s no plan or the plan is unclear, your next generation may start to feel held hostage, or at least very uncertain of whether they have a future on your farm.

Evaluate your current plan:

-Is there a plan on our farm for how we’ll transfer knowledge from one generation to the next? To transfer the farm’s assets? To train the farm’s next leader?

-What are the timeframes in which the transition will happen?

-Has the plan been communicated to everyone on the farm? Is everyone on board with it?

-On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident am I that my plan will accomplish what I want it to?

-You might talk with a legacy advisor about your farm’s unique situation when it comes to the next generation and transition planning. Next week, I’ll share a few more ideas on this topic.

Read the new issue of the Smart Series publication, bringing business ideas for today’s farm leader. This issue features ideas on preparing for land opportunities, thinking ahead about retirement, how to keep pace with the changes of the 2016 crop year, and more advice for farm leaders. Get your free online issue here.

Next: Open communication can mean a lot for the farm's future.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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