The Answer to Farm Succession:
We need to make decisions as a team first!
Until your family can squeeze out an extra 10% profit, you aren’t ready to have the succession conversation about where the farm is going to be in 10 years.
Me to We: Team Decision-Making
Farming is no longer a single-player sport! Farmers are living longer. Suddenly we have multiple generations farming together and because of the economies of scale required, multiple siblings/cousins are farming together as well. There shouldn’t be the question of how to divide up the family farm anymore, it’s how to keep farming together. When we start talking about division we will soon be talking about farm family inheritance problems and farm transition planning feuds. The reality is, family members own shares in the farm, which means we need to learn how to share!
Without anyone recognizing it, farming has shifted from an individual to a team sport. To farm successfully, we need to shift from a “Me to We” mindset and learn to play and share together as a team!
By nature, farmers are stubborn and we often are fumbling the ball as a team. Sport franchises don’t focus their efforts on throwing a ball as much as they focus on getting their players acting as a team. They recognize that teamwork isn’t fluff, this is the key to success. So do the world’s most successful businesses. Why doesn’t your farm? In order to still be farming in 2050, your farm “team” has to play at the NFL level – not the high school level. ASAP.
Over Zoom.us (video conferencing) we chair a weekly family business meeting and behind the scenes get everyone working together as a team. Every fiscal quarter, we work with your family to turn your weaknesses into strengths in several management categories and it’s amazing how the philosophy “continuous improvement” can change your farm’s profit and lifestyle within a year!
Beginning Farmers and the Next Generation
We believe that any farmer can gift their kid a tractor, but few can teach their kid how to make that tractor pay. The more successful you are as a farmer, the tougher it is for you to let go of control and to teach wisdom. There are a lot of farms where successors are in their 30s and still treated as glorified employees, not future owners. As a result, they don’t know many critical aspects of the business and don’t see the need to know. That is because p/matriarchs are doers, not teachers and teaching “what they should know by now” isn’t their strength. We integrate young farmers in the farm’s decision-making process and get parents to actually listen to their ideas.
Subtly, we coach p/matriarchs to explain “why they do things the way they do.” Each meeting, the next generation either learns unspoken family wisdom or challenges conventional wisdom, leading to the farm’s benefit long-term either way. Each successor is gently/slowly given more management responsibility at each strategic meeting and gradually groomed into a management role.
How many times have you seen ill-equipped successors inherit successful farms only to eventually “piss it away?” This subtle farm talent grooming process can greatly improve the probability of your farm’s viability in 30 years!
Parents or other family members might not think of themselves as chauvinistic, but unintentionally many are. We help farm gals break barriers caused by hundreds of years of chauvinism using a process where you “get a seat at the table” as a decision-maker. We gently challenge family members (including all potential female partners) of chauvinistic mindsets and groom girls into professional women, becoming the best version of themselves they can be.
Farm Family Strategic Planning
Farm succession planning isn’t a said and done plan. It is a long-term family strategic plan for where the farm needs to be going and growing.
Sadly, most farm succession planning is a disaster because family members have never sat down together to do even a short-term strategic plan. These farm families struggle to make basic production decisions together without power trips being involved, and then suddenly they are trying to make complex decisions that impact the fate of a dream that took generations to build.
How much lost potential profit, inefficiencies, and frustrations has your farm family experienced over the past five years because your “team” isn’t functioning at its full potential? We are the first to apply sport psychology to farming. By getting farm families working together as a team and following a realistic strategic plan, most of the time we DOUBLE a farm’s profit. You’d be amazed by how much more profit can be squeezed out of an operation if everyone is pulling together, instead of butting heads!
Over the past decade, we’ve turned around the direst farm debt and farm succession cases in 17 states by shifting the farms from a “me to we” mindset. Yet, this exact process is how we take any average farm from good to great!
We believe that until your family can squeeze out an extra 10% profit, you aren’t ready to have the succession conversation about where the farm is going to be in 10 years. However, once you have evolved family decision-making, farm succession is made 10x easier!
Our unique succession philosophies:
Until the Day you Die
Modern health sciences are a game changer nobody gets. Back in the 60’s when Dad was sixty, he’d retire because his hips were shot. Nowadays he’s getting hip replacement surgery and farming into his 80’s. We believe that succession planners shouldn’t focus on a >$5,000 legal document that kicks Dad off the farm, but a one-page strategy for how multiple generations can work together. As farm kids work more hours, they OBJECTIVELY earn more shares in the family corporation (ex. Work $10,000 hours = earn 10% of shares) …only if they add value to family business. We enable farmers to farm until the day they die and create a culture whereby every day until then, farming with family is fun again.
Weekly we help successors challenge the conventional wisdom of what the farm has done in the past, which either results in new profitable ideas being generated or everyone learning a teachable moment of why the family has done things the way that they have done in the past. Farmers are doers, not teachers and we help them communicate key management lessons to their kids. Any fool can gift a tractor to their daughter, few are successful in teaching them HOW to make that tractor pay for itself. Subtly we fix this!
Good to Great
No matter how good of a successor you have, everyone has weaknesses. We groom successors from good to great. Our program encourages everyone to turn character weaknesses into strengths and become “the best they can be.” This ensures both the management competence and mindset required to be a successful business owner. We groom more CEO’s of multi-million-dollar empires than Harvard.
If siblings are involved, we make sure that they can make decisions together as a team without mom as the mediator…before becoming 50:50 partners (or whatever) on paper. This avoids feuds.
Despite the leaps in history, giving women more opportunities and larger horizons, they still have hundreds of years of chauvinism that they must continue to crush. Women in Agriculture should not be an exception but a norm. We believe the first step for any woman wanting to become a business partner in her family’s operation is to carve out a regular seat at the family business meeting. If you are not part of the decision-making on the farm you walk on, then you will never be considered a real partner and will be walked over.
Succession nightmares happen when a one-time family business meeting turns into a decade long feud. Everyone expects that meeting to go “their way” and feelings quickly get hurt because families aren’t used to solving strategic problems together. It’s better for a family to learn to weigh the pros/cons on many $10,000 decisions before a multi-million one. By the family first getting used to making small strategic decisions together as a team, this one-time conversation goes smoothly.