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Vision: Is your family committed to the family farm?

Without a vision as a guide, problems and conflicts can derail your farm and farm transition.

“We will change the way people learn, work, and play.”- Steve Jobs

“We will put a man on the moon by 1970.”- John F. Kennedy.

Steve Jobs uttered those words long before he was an iconic business leader. JFK spoke those words to the nation in 1961 at a time when many predicted the Soviet Union would win the space race.

Your family farm may not change the world like Steve Jobs and JFK, but you are feeding the world in a highly competitive environment.

When farming was good many farms wanted to continue farming the way they were. After all, why change anything if it was making money? Today that picture is different and farmers are looking for different ways of creating success for themselves and their families. In addition, many farms will go through transition and succession planning in the next several years.

What is your plan, your vision?
Too often we get stuck in the tasks of the day-to-day but lose focus on the big picture: The Vision.

Without a vision as a guide, daily struggles, problems, and conflicts can arise derailing your farm and farm transition. Without a vision, minor issues became major challenges that are often insurmountable. We observe a lack of clearly articulated values, and unclear visions are often the first dominoes to fall when family farm succession fails.

Barely 17% of family farms make it into the 3rd generation,so time spent on crafting your family farm vision is time well spent. The single more important reason many successful farms go through the visioning process is to explore and define the commitment to the business across generations. When there is a shared commitment to the future of the farm, great things happen. The vision planning process has several attributes.

  • Tied to the core values of the family and farm
  • Provide a guiding star for family decisions
  • Describes how family contributes to the business success
  • Process requires learning and working together as a family team
  • Helps next generation develop and take ownership of their future
  • Builds family commitment to each other and the business
  • Strengthens and renews family values, rituals, and traditions

Getting started is sometimes hard so below are four questions to ask each family member in the business.

  • What family values do you hold that support our continued ownership in the business?
  • What is the business potential to create value for the family and owners?
  • What do family owners expect from the business?
  • How does family, and family working in the business, add value to the business?

A well-run vision planning process defines and solidifies the commitment of each family member to each other and the business around common goals. It is often tempting to assume your children entering the business have the same vision as you, and it is tempting for the next generation to assume Dad and Mom have it all figured out. Assumptions are the mother's milk of future conflict and conflict is often the main reason farm succession planning gets off-track.

Your vision will probably not include placing someone on the moon. Hoever, you are providing for your family, creating a legacy and helping feed the world and that’s no small task. Tying your core values to a solid vision increases the odds of your success and your legacy.

The Executive Farmer Network currently includes farmers from the USA & Canada. Tim can be reached at [email protected] or www.encore-consultants.net.

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

TAGS: Management
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