Blogs

Your new role: Hired man
September 8, 2009

Dad, how would you feel taking on the role of a hired man?
Your son or daughter is ready to take over, and you’d be wise to let them

One of the tricks of great farm succession is the founder’s ability to let go of management, and ultimately ownership. There are many 60-something and 70-something farm dads on the bald prairie who just don’t know how to change from being the main manager to the hired man. I know “hired man” is not the politically correct term. I should say “employee,” but employees make a wage, and I don’t know if Dad is getting a paycheque!
When you started farming for your dad you were labour, then you gained the skill to manage, and then you took over the operation by buying shares or land or assets. Now at age 67 or 72, you are wanting to step back, and only work when you feel like it. You are again the labour component.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you make this transition: Do you take instruction well? Can you be self-motivating? Will you have a learner mindset instead of a judger mindset if your son does things differently than you would? Do you have interests outside of your role on the farm? Are you paying attention to what your wife needs now?

Benefits of this new role

Some farmers don’t have a clue how to see something from another’s perspective. They are strong-minded talented entrepreneurs who are used to calling the shots. Now maybe the time to do some thinking in the combine about what you really want your life on the farm to look like. Are there plans for travel and recreation?

Do you have your personal finances in order? Are you cherishing your marriage? Do the far away grandkids get many chances to see you?

Everyone wants to be loved and be needed. Lack of appreciation is a big stumbling block to successful farm transfers. Don’t wait another day to tell others they are appreciated.

Let the folks on your farm team know the struggles and fears you are having about being useful in your old age. If you are a “grumpy old man,” they will know by your behaviour that something isn’t right, and you are obviously not happy.

By the way, you are not old, you are “young-old” if you are still active. You really need to create fun things and purpose for the next two decades of your life.

Don’t put off having fun, as health may change, and you have the time and finances now to explore creative ventures.

Find some great causes to volunteer for. Mentor a younger farmer if you have sold your farm. Adopt grandkids who need grandparent influence in their lives. Ask your local town if they need a talented re-invented farmer to fix and maintain machinery.
Let your farming adult children make mistakes and grow the business the way they want to. You can be a source of wisdom and experience as you make sure you are perceived as helpful, and not interfering. Ask if you can partake in the family business meetings so that you feel in the loop of communication.

Ask yourself what you want your legacy to be. I hope that when I am 65, I can encourage the next generation, help do yard work, play with grandchildren, volunteer fully in my town, and enjoy some short term mission work with Mennonite Economic Development Associates ( www.meda.org <http://www.meda.org/> ), where they use economic development to alleviate poverty.

Can you be the hired man again?

Test it out. Talk about what is working and what isn’t. Teach the next generation with courtesy and respect for their talents.

I would be deeply honored to hear your story. We all need role models to look up to and encourage us to succeed in new, creative ways. Elderhood is not a highly respected role in our society, but one by one, we can change that perception.

September is going to be a hectic harvest month. All the best as you labour in love.

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“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
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Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
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Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
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Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
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Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
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G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
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Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
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Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
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Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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