MNP’s Dean Klippenstine’s quote “I’d rather have really good management than lots of old money for a great transition” really hit me as we considered the risk factors in farm transition on an AgvisorPRO webinar. As the mom to a young successor and wife to a very ambitious determined successful seed grower who is wired to get tasks done, it can be an interesting journey to graciously let go of control and mentor the next manager of your farm business.
I’m going to respond to Dick Wittman’s key discerning questions he poses to potential managers.
What are your long-term goals related to a working career on the farm?
You want to embrace passion and desire for the long haul of farming. The past 5 years have been golden ones for many, yet we are in a new zone now of expensive equipment, tough fertilizer prices, rising interest rates, and high land costs. Where is the positivity to find opportunity in tough financial cycles? Are you willing to keep a long view and get good at your financial skills in your career? How much financial transparency is there between the generations?
How do you feel you are progressing toward those goals?
A farming year whizzes by, and each day has new challenges. If you are a young father with children like my son, you feel the real pull to be present for family, and the push to keep on task in a timely fashion with farm demands. This polarity is a problem that is never going away, it will always have to be managed. On our farm, the dad, the founder who is stepping back without stepping away asks every morning to new manager. “How can I help today, what do we need to get done?” This is part of the culture of respect and understanding that a task-oriented person will see things differently while the new manager is more people and relationship-focused.
What strengths do you have that you feel are not being utilized to their fullest potential?
Do you even know what your strengths are? Our coaching team uses the personal style indicator, an online tool to discover how you are wired for tasks, people, details, and influence. This assessment really helps folks work from their strengths. I have never done the farm books and never will, as my strength is people and influence, so my skills are suited for other jobs. If you would like to do the PSI assessment, ask! or click here.
What do you need to be more empowered to do your current job?
I think you would make a lot of headway with preparing the next generation if you just learned to recognize their opinions and give respect to their innovative ideas. Many young farmers tell me they just would love to have their voices and opinions heard and respected by founders. If your successor has an idea communication style as our son does, you need to give them time to go on tangents and explain the WHY behind their next innovation for progress. On our farm in 2022, we dug an irrigation reservoir, did a quarter of tile drainage, and there is more to come to make our existing land more productive. We don’t plan on buying more land. This process has been long and arduous with the politics of water in Manitoba, yet it strengthened the resolve and negotiation skills of the next generation when both generations collaborated on their approach to obstacles.
What are you looking for in a leadership structure as the current CEO transitions out of this role?
Dick Wittman’s daughter is his new CEO. Dick still calls the shots on the logging business division because no one else wanted that role. Being clear about roles and responsibilities for each generation is life-changing when you know what is expected. Dick also uses a board of advisors for his decision-making structure. Have you introduced your successor to the financial planner, coach, broker, marketer, accountant, and lawyer? These advisory relationships can be developed early. I know one farm family who takes their teenager with them to the accountant as part of his learning plan.
What can we do to improve communications and teamwork?
We can all be curious and better listeners. The fastest way to get things done is to have a designated blocked-off time for farm family business meetings with a clear agenda. The mantra of a great business is to focus and execute. By when will you be meeting to attack the issues keeping your farm stuck?
What frustrations have you encountered with the transition process?
Procrastination and conflict avoidance come to mind. Putting things off because you just don’t know where to start or are unsure of the next steps is not helping you. Conflict can be resolved when you learn how to use your intentions, actions, and responses to be clear and create solutions. Our coaching team specializes in helping folks understand their positive conflict behaviours and hot-button triggers. Can you invest a mere $55 per person for an online conflict assessment to figure out what will decrease the drama on your farm? A culture of managers who are clear with their values of honesty, integrity, teamwork, and accountability will be a joy to work with and attract new workers.
What suggestions do you have for making the next steps in the transition?
Each person brings a new perspective to the journey of change. The successor needs fair compensation for their budding skill set, and the founders need to have secure income streams as they age in place on the farm. Money is not evil. Money is an energy and resource. Hopefully, you have built a very profitable and viable farm operation with many options for growth.
I have deep respect for the wisdom Dick Wittman has brought to agriculture over the past 40 years, and suggest you invest in his digital farm management manual for about $200 US here.
I would be thrilled to hear your best management practice that gives your new manager wings to grow, and security knowing you are a fabulous mentor for the journey ahead.
Click here to download Wittman’s Wisdom Tool!
Elaine Froese, CAFA, CSP, CHICoach mentors 7 coaches who replicate her coaching expertise.
Visit here to book a free discovery call to find out your next steps on the transition journey and find out more about the PSI and CDP assessments to help you understand each other on your farm to find harmony.
Did you enjoy Reduce Friction on the Farm? You might want to check these articles out too:
How to get your non-farm siblings on-board with your farm vision
Transition Planning does not have to be tough
A New Frame to see Transition Possibility and Movement