Succession in any business involves change and change cannot occur unless decisions are consciously taken to make things different. The fact that only about 5% of Australian farmers decide to undertake the succession planning process is indicative of the perception of difficulty surrounding the process. It also illustrates what a courageous decision it is for those who actually decide to embark on the succession journey. It is courageous because such a decision has far reaching ramifications not only for those who make the decision, but their families and businesses as well.
One of the precursors for making good decisions is to have the clarity to know what it is we want personally, as a family and as a business. Giving ourselves the time out from our day to day activities is vital, so that we have the space to reflect on what is most important in terms of our life goals and aspirations. How can we plan effectively for our futures if we don’t know what it is we want and need?
Once we are clear about our goals and aspirations, we know what the business has to deliver in order to meet those goals and aspirations. This is the purpose of our business. If we have a clear purpose, we also have a management tool to drive the decision making process in the business. For instance, if we know that we need to buy a house for Mum and Dad’s retirement in the short term, we also know that is what the business has to focus on. If there is a choice between the retirement house and buying out the neighbour, then it is easy to make the right decision for the family.
Of course business viability needs to be considered whenever decisions are made. So it is vital that there is accurate and up to date financial information available at all times to facilitate these decisions. What if the business is unable to meet the goals of the business owners and therefore fulfil its purpose? Then decisions need to be made to adjust either expectations and/or the business strategy.
It is important to remember that decision making is about taking control of our destinies. There are aspects of agriculture such as weather and markets that are out of our control, but the succession of our businesses is within our control, especially if the process is started early. What better reward for our life’s work than to make a conscious decision to give the next generation the opportunity to be part of agriculture if that is what they desire?
The succession planning process can be complex and challenging, but it will be successful for those who can step outside their comfort zones, make the courageous decisions necessary for their families and businesses, and implement them. The highly publicised “war stories” tend to come out of situations where the decision is to do nothing, and as we all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes.
“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”
― Elbert Hubbard, American writer, publisher, artist and philosopher