Succession planning is generally perceived to be hard. Hard because it involves change, it is multi-faceted, and it is emotional, all of which can lead to a sense of overwhelm. But when considered from a different perspective, it can also provide a tremendous opportunity for family farming businesses.
HARD – deciding to embark on the change process, embracing a vision
Top farmers are taking up the challenge because they are prepared to do what it takes to preserve their businesses and their family relationships; and they have decided in favour of continuing their family’s stewardship of their land.
Succession planning is essentially a process of change, and the change needs to be planned for and managed. For the change to be successful there needs to be a high level of commitment and perseverance to ride out the emotional rollercoaster that is part of the process.
HARD – identifying and communicating goals for the next stage in life
An essential precursor to the decisions to implement change is the business owners looking at their goals and aspirations, and what is important for them in the next stage of their lives. Clear communication of these goals underpins a successful transition, providing: the clarity and direction to make good decisions; an understanding of the people involved and their needs; and prioritising the meeting of those needs.
HARD – difficult conversations
Succession planning is complex because it involves many different aspects such as family meetings, business plans, financial agreements, wills, retirement and inheritance. It gives rise to confronting topics and difficult conversations, and issues that are not ordinarily addressed by families. A communication platform needs to be put in place to allow these conversations to occur in an environment that separates business and family matters.
These issues can become emotionally charged because they involve family. Also in the mix, is a fear of the consequences to family relationships if these difficult conversations are allowed to see the light of day. So in the desire to preserve harmonious family relationships, open and honest communication can be stifled, resulting in a lack of clarity and direction in the business. This then leads to further discomfort, anxiety and stress, all of which can impact the health and wellbeing of both the family members and the business. A supported and supportive communication platform can arrest this negative spiral and build positive habits for future communication. It fosters commitment to, and responsibility for the succession plan from other family members.
HARD - succeed step by step
Succession planning needs to be broken into smaller segments to remove the sense of overwhelm. When considered in terms of being a process rather than an event, and the responsibility of all family members rather than just one, it does not seem quite so difficult.
Although succession planning may appear hard, what needs to be recognised is there are enormous rewards to be had by those who are prepared to commit to the process and persevere when the going gets tough. The potential benefits of improving the quality of family relationships and uplift in business profitability are huge.
The overarching question must be, can your business and family survive not undertaking succession planning? That may be harder still.