Susan Forward, author of Emotional Blackmail gave me a key phrase for coaching that is life-changing, she used the term “Where is it written… (insert issue)? As a farm family coach who is currently in her third succession/transition journey, I would like to challenge you with “Where is it written that transition planning has to be tough?”
If you’ve read your December 2021 Country Guide you’ll know that Kurt and Harley Siemens paired up for growth. I met these wonderful folks at an Egg Farmers seminar. They are a shining example of working things out for their future legacy by building on the existing foundation of trust and open communication. They also had an enthusiastic accountant and a banker who toured their operation. Yes, they had arguments, discussions, and crying, resulting in siblings having share options, but in their photos, they are smiling!
Is your advisor keeping you stuck and making things hard? Our accountant and her tax specialist met with us and our successors at our home in the middle of summer, but that was several months after we had done initial coaching meetings. Many of you are procrastinating, saying “We’ll do this after Christmas (which is now), or after calving, or after seeding, or after spraying, or after haying, or after harvest or after Christmas!” Do you see what just happened? Another year has gone by and nothing has changed except everyone is another year older.
Our accounting firm coach, Peter Manness, came to visit us with his large post-it notes paper which he slapped on my kitchen wall. He talked to us as founders, then to the successors, and then invited us all in the same room to visualize what we all wanted the future to look like. We talked about income stream, housing, fairness to the non-farm sibling, and some structure ideas. The ideas came from us, not a cookie-cutter template from the accountant. We also used personal style profile assessments to figure out who was task-oriented, influential, detail-oriented, and good with people. If you want to do an inexpensive assessment online for $55 per person email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send you sample reports and set you up for finding out how your team is wired.
Colin Sabourin of Harbourfront Wealth Management in Winnipeg calls farm transition a journey. He encourages clients to first decide what they want, doing this exercise with a trusted adviser, and a family coach. He can give clarity on Lifestyle Planning before heading into tactics with the accountant or lawyer. I highly recommend seeing a financial planner first to figure out what you want for your life as you let go of the management of the business or start higher degrees of collaboration with the next generation. Visit www.cafanet.ca/advisor-listing/ to find great advisors who care about agriculture in your area.
Many farmers who approach me for coaching initially cannot tell me what they truly want. No one has asked them. This takes time to process. One of my clients left the country for a month to visit his homeland and get clarity on what he truly wanted to “let go” of. You might want to book off some “thinking and pondering time”, perhaps a week or 2 in a warmer locale where work is not calling you to the bin or the barn.
Transitioning management and ownership of a farm business is a journey. The Chinese say “you begin the journey of 1000 steps with the first step”. Your attitude about conflict needs to be positive, knowing that positive conflict behaviours are going to help everyone get what they want.
Here’s a list of positive behaviours tested with my conflict dynamic profile online tool:
- The ability to create solutions.
- Expressing emotions.
- Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, being able to see things from more than one perspective.
- Willingness to be adaptable and let go.
- Reaching out to keep the process of decision-making ongoing. Not letting the process get stuck, being willing to drive accountability for appointments with coaches, planners, and accountants.
The conflict dynamic profile is available online (email email@example.com). A farm family client with a MBA felt this tool was one of the most valuable things to find better communication with the founders. The tool also identifies the not so helpful behaviour like hiding emotions, and self-criticizing, as well as 10 hot buttons.
Would your transition journey be smoother with a map?
Sometimes a farmer asks me for my “checklist” for a great succession experience. Each family’s business dynamic is unique, yet there are many things to navigate. We don’t stop exploring and having adventures when the road gets a bit bumpy. Here’s my farm family harmony map to help you find harmony through understanding ™ as you transition:
- Plan your approach, get folks to the table to talk and gain perspective.
- Know that culture beats strategy so work on your aligned values, behave well with one another, and practice shared decision making.
- Embrace conflict resolution as a business risk management strategy as you share your intent with each other, and then feedback on how those intentions affect you.
- Identify the tough issues, the bull in the middle of the room that folks are avoiding, and start discussing the “undiscussabull”™, the pinch points keeping you up at night.
- Open the farm books for financial transparency to share your attitudes and expectations about income streams, personal wealth bubbles, debt servicing, and gifts to non-farm heirs. This is finding fairness in farm transition and is working towards everyone being successful.
- Deal with expectations that are not workable, things like entitlement or greed.
- Accept the voice and input of the in-laws who bring many skills to the farm team, be willing to create clear job descriptions for all.
- Finally, gather for a formal session with a flipchart and a well-thought-out agenda to have a robust farm family vision meeting to kickstart your journey of transition.
Hit your red Staples “That was EASY” button. Again, where is it written that transition planning must be hard? It’s a workable journey. Please take steps now to create certainty for your family. I’m here to help.
Elaine Froese, CAFA, CSP, CHICoach wants agriculture to thrive with more family harmony through understanding. Visit www.elainefroese.com/contact. Book her to speak virtually or in person with your association to kickstart your transition success.
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