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I just heard an estate planning lawyer, Chris Delaney mention that he is seeing farmers “sheltering in the tactics” rather than embracing what I call the “emotional factors affecting planning.” Delaney is the author of “The Naked Opus”, a novel approach to estate planning. It’s a very good read.

Please understand, the foundation for great transition planning is having open conversations with yourself, your spouse, your successors, and your non-farm heirs first.

As a farm transition specialist, I want to save you a truckload of money. Get clear first on the expectations of your family circle BEFORE you start listing your needs and wants with your advisors. Doing a series of family meetings before you start engaging professional accountants and lawyers will make your conversations with advisors more profitable and efficient.

A young, highly educated farm successor is crying on the phone because her farm founder widowed dad has lost sight of the family vision to have 2 successors, not just one. He is happy to accept a crafted plan from his accountant, but not happy to have it challenged. This is folly to believe that advisors can create a transition plan without the input of all the farm team players! Delaney’s “do not shelter in the tactics” means you go straight to tactics like tax strategies, rather than taking the time to figure out the needs and expectations of your farm family first. This is the family circle, the place where dynamics and emotions can keep planning flowing or stuck!

Many of you are not happy with the increasing tension on your farm this winter. It’s not only the pandemic that has amplified the conflict, it’s your procrastination and unwillingness to have collaborative decision making with the next generation. You need to step back, take responsibility for your poor choices, and re-set.

The process of open communication is life-giving and will change the culture of your farm for the better.  It’s a mindset shift.  Culture beats strategy, it’s what you believe to be true, your behavior with each other, and how you make decisions.

Conflict is to be embraced as a business risk management strategy. You attack the issues, not the people on your farm team.

As a member of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors, I have high regard for lawyers, accountants, farm business specialists, financial planners, and other mediators who understand that this transition journey is a team of advisors event.

Here’s the way to not hide behind your advisors:

  1. First, you have to understand what you want. Then you need to be able to explain WHY you want what you want to the rest of the family circle, farm, and non-farm. If you are not comfortable doing this with your family on your own, then invest in a 3rd party facilitator or coach for courageous conversations. In 2020 I had over 170 farm families reach out for ways to find harmony in understanding for the transition process. I am now building a stable of coaches to join my virtual coaching work on zoom, as there is much work to do.  Folks can get new conflict language like “I think it’s time we come to the table to talk, I feel overwhelmed not knowing where to go next, I want us to be clear about the income streams, and financial viability of our farm, and I need  to build family harmony in this process.”
  2. Explore options with your successors in the management circle, family participation policies that deal with compensation, roles, exit plans, learning plans for successors. You can find many tools to kick-start these conversations with my Farm Family Toolkit at www.elainefroese.com
  3. Talk about timelines for sharing ownership of the farm. This is the section of planning where you start to talk about structure, tax strategies, and timelines for the transition of ownership. It is also likely here that you start to feel overwhelmed with all the plans you need to put in place. The father who takes a pre-determined plan from his accountant is looking for someone else to create solutions for his business, and this creates huge distrust with the successors. Don’t jump to step 3 until you have done the work of steps 1 and 2.

The three circles of planning are 1. Family. 2. Management. 3. Ownership.

You can use advisors in each step, making sure that you have robust family conversations in the process.

Where is it written that succession planning needs to be tough? Again, another mindset shift is necessary. Planning for change is a journey. Ask me for my binder tabs to help you get organized. Go to www.elainefroese.com/contact.

Some farm businesses are highly complex, so the steps outlined above are also more complex, but ultimately “love does not read minds”, you cannot assume what other farm team members are thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting.

Every farm is unique. Every family is unique. Ultimately the farm transition journey should enhance family relationships and secure the legacy of the farm business.

Use professional advisors to help you reach your goals. Don’t expect them to create workable plans when you are not engaged with navigating your family circle first. Dealing with the emotional factors affecting planning is your first step. You can do this.

I’m here to help.


Elaine Froese (pronounced ‘phrase’), CSP is a certified professional speaker, certified coach, author, and Arlan Academy presenter. She’s a go-to expert for farm families who want better communication and conflict resolution to secure a successful farm transition.

Her expertise is to discuss what she calls the Undiscussabull™ – the bull in the middle of the farm family that no one wants to talk about.

Did you enjoy this post on Hiding Behind Your Advisors? You might want to check these articles out too:

When Silent Nights Don’t Bring Peace To Your Farm
How to pitch pride to get transition traction!
How to Start the Succession Planning Conversation

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“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.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
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
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
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
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
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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+1-204-534-7466 | elaine(at)elainefroese.com

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