Are you being held hostage by your family? Part 3

Open communication can mean a lot for the farm’s future.

The past couple weeks, I’ve been discussing issues that can come up when there’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen to the family farm in the future. If you haven’t already, you may want to take a couple minutes to read the first and second parts of the series.

Here’s the key: ‘hostage’ situations in farm families can be prevented. Proactive farm families open and keep a line of communication open about the farm business’ future.

That’s not to say plans can’t change as circumstances and other situations move. The plan isn’t set in stone. It’s a guide to the future the farm family wants for their operation – and it’s both practical and inspiring for everyone involved in the farm.

An open line

For one farm family, working on a forward-looking business plan helped open up this line of communication about the future. As our advisors worked with them on creating their plan, they began to see the future vision and got very excited about it.

Getting a business plan in place developed a more open line of communication between the two generations on the farm. They started feeling freer to discuss the farm’s future with each other. Through those talks, the older generation decided to start working on a legacy plan for how the farm would transition to the next generation.

During the legacy planning process, they made sure to communicate freely with each other. There were family meetings, facilitated by their legacy advisor, where each family member had opportunities to share what was on his or her heart and mind with regard to the family farm and the future.

Training days

As part of the plan, the older generation created a list of the most important things that the younger generation needed to know to be able to lead the business. Then, they intentionally planned how and when that training would take place.

Once the younger generation reached a certain level of competency in a particular area, the older generation planned to – and did – let go of some oversight in that area. The plan detailed how they would gradually keep moving more and more of the control and decision-making over to the next generation.

This training helped the younger generation become more prepared to lead. It also helped the older generation as they anticipated what it would be like to have less control over day to day decision-making.

Catching the vision

When the people on the farm can see where the business is headed and their part in it, they get excited about the vision and want to be part of it. There’s not as much chance of a ‘hostage’-type situation happening.

What do your farm’s future plans look like? Is there a plan for where the farm business is headed – that includes a vision, milestones, and business goals? Is there a legacy plan that details how you’ll prepare the next generation to lead and when and how responsibility will be transferred to them? You might talk with a farm business advisor or legacy advisor about your farm’s future plans.

Read the current 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.


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

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