Submitted by: Mary Feldskov, Heartland Regional Communication Coordinator
When you’re ready to start the farm succession planning process—or, as the situation may call for, restarting the farm succession planning process after previous attempts had stalled, or even failed—it’s a good idea to engage some professional help. While the usual stable of farm advisors including accountants, lawyers, bankers and business coaches are important resources to draw upon, the first professional you may want to call upon won’t be dealing with farm finances, business plans, or taxes, but rather getting you started on the most fundamental part of the process: how to open the lines of communication among all the stakeholders which, in most cases, are family members. Drawing upon the expert advice of a counsellor, a therapist or a coach who can help open up the lines of communication among family members may be just what your family needs to set your farm succession plan up for success.
The OMAFRA Farm Succession Planning Guide 2020 (Pub 70), a 120-page, detailed guide to starting the succession planning process, emphasizes the importance of dealing with the ‘soft stuff’ of personal, family and business relationships before getting down to the business side of farm succession. “In a farming business, communications are made complex by the fact that often family members are employees, employees are owners, owners are family members and so on.”
Getting everyone to the table to talk openly, and honestly, about the future of the family farm can be a challenge, especially if there is a history of disagreement, strife or differing opinions. Engaging a professional, objective, third-party professional can help families address some of these deep-seated, emotional barriers to moving forward with a successful farm plan. This may cause families to avoid or procrastinate about talking about the future—or some may just refuse to engage entirely.
In her blog post “How to Start the Succession Planning Conversation”, Farm Coach Elaine Froese says the first step is to act. “Decide you are no longer avoiding the tough conversations,” she writes. “Are you willing to call the family together to meet?”
Bringing in a neutral third-party facilitator to help guide the conversation can be an important piece of the puzzle, which can start with helping each person involved in the process prepare for a family meeting and organize their thoughts and feelings. And it’s never been easier to get support, with many advisors available to meet online from the comfort of your home and around your schedule.
As it turns out, the “soft-stuff” of dealing with interpersonal relationships may actually be the hardest part of getting started on a farm succession plan. But with the right tools, resources and support, engaging in those difficult conversations right from the start can lead to success in succession.
Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) two-day free workshop is the place to start improving your business and beginning the succession planning process. This is done through a combination of a self-assessment and action plan development with a range of cost-share funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). Farm families and management teams are encouraged to attend the workshop together.
Visit: https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/oscia-programs/ workshops-webinars/gyfp-workshop/ to sign up now!