Farm transition can be hard work. One of the biggest challenges is finding a financial advisor, tax specialist, and legal professional whom farmers feel they can trust. They are wondering if they are well-served by their current team of advisors or if it’s time to change advisors, as some folks are not getting clear answers to their questions, and sometimes don’t know what questions to ask!
The song says “breaking up is hard to do…and I know, I know that it is true.” I think is it hard to fire your advisors because we live in small towns, have to drive further for more options, and we are a loyal bunch.
However, loyalty to a lawyer for 36 years without getting an estate settled is not healthy, happy or smart! I am not kidding; this is a real-life situation. A farmer is fighting with a very elderly brother who is the executor of the father’s estate, and the farmer still has no clear title to his home yard…after 36 years. Stubborn? No. Just not assertive about firing bad advisors, and moving on to a better one. The question is, how do you find a better one?
How to Change Advisors – My Advice
I like word-of-mouth referrals from people I trust. I won’t refer farm clients to financial planners or lawyers unless I am sure of their work.
I belong to the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors. You can find our directory at www.cafanet.com. All across Canada, these are the folks who care about farmers and keep up to date. We also talk to each other, so ask us what we have seen in our travels working with clients across the countryside.
You also want to check out designations. CAFA stands for membership in the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors. We have a code of ethics and professional development standards.
Certified Management Accountants are different from Chartered Accountants, and I have worked with folks that hold either of these designations, and they do great work. How big a team of experts is behind your book-keeper, accountant, coach, financial planner or lawyer?
Farms are pretty tight with their advisor dollars. They don’t want to be cheated, and they want a good return on their fees paid. A woman I spoke to relayed that it was worth it to spend more money for professional advice. She had been “burned” with a lower cost advisor who did not perform well for her farm.
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As professionals, we don’t want to discredit the work of other professionals, but we do raise “red flags” when clients tell us about exorbitant charges or work that is left undone, or not done in a timely fashion.
Why are your tolerating poor service and performance from your advisors?
I have fired two of my suppliers, one with an exit interview and one with a file being pulled to another professional. These are not easy things to do, but if you want to “do the tough things right” as a farm manager, sometimes you have to let go of folks who are not giving you the service and quality of work you need to run a profitable business.
If you have paid a retainer and are locked into a contract that you want out of, you can work your way out. It might take six months of persistent letter writing, phone calls, and deadlines, but it can be done.
Google the phrase “how to fire your advisor” and see what tips come up.
Remember: Farming Is a Business
Each situation will have its special challenges, and I don’t intend to give you a “quick fix approach.” My intent is to make you pause and think about whether or not it is time to change advisors, and seek out folks whose skills match what your business requires.
Farming is a business, and we need to be profitable with good risk management and very solid written agreements in place. If I had a hundred dollars for every sad story I hear in a year; I could pay lots of advisors a very handsome retainer!
Get it done.
Ask for feedback from the farmers you see making good decisions.
Talk it over with your current advisor and challenge them on the things you think they are weak on. Don’t be shy about asking for what you need and challenging the current situation. Letting go of bad advice is a good thing. You can’t keep pouring your dollars down a drain that is costing your farm money.
When it’s time to change advisors, be wise, do your research, and ask lots of deep questions.