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10 Farm Succession Goals to Set for 2021

Sara Schafer

December 17, 2020

As we happily close out 2020, let’s focus on the lessons we learned during a crazy and tough year. As the COVID-19 pandemic became part of our daily lives, it highlighted the need for succession and contingency planning.

As we start 2021, make succession planning a priority. Review your current plan or start new. Regardless of where you fall in the food chain on your operation, you can be the champion of the process.

Successful management transition of a farm involves three critical and potentially simultaneous processes, says Danny Klinefelter, professor emeritus and Extension economist at Texas A&M University. Those are: successor development, the transfer of management responsibility and authority and planning the exit of the current CEO.

Klinefelter has worked with hundreds of farm businesses. In the process, he observed several best practices. Consider putting them on your goal is for 2021.

  1. Evaluate the industry. Join a peer group or work with someone outside the business to get objective insight on the current state of the industry and where it’s headed. Consider how consolidation, regulations and technology are influencing the industry.

  2. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the CEO. How effective will the CEO be at helping develop his successor? Knowing the CEO’s weaknesses, who can help the successor in those areas during development?

  3. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the successor. Where does he or she need training and experience and how will his or her weaknesses be compensated as the new management team comes together?

  4. Make open, honest and mature two-way communication a priority.

  5. Devise a management development plan to address the successor’s strengths and weaknesses, experience, responsibility, training, and honest/objective evaluation and feedback.

  6. Provide experience, exposure and networking opportunities for the successor (not just outside the business, but also outside the industry). A future CEO needs to consider and evaluate various viewpoints as well as recognize much of what’s to come is already happening outside of agriculture.

  7. Develop a common vision for the business, which includes company values and organizational culture.

  8. Create a specific timeline for the ongoing delegation of responsibility and authority.

  9. Involve the successor in the development of the business plan and in the strategic planning and decision-making process.

  10. Implement a plan for what the current CEO is going to do next. If the CEO doesn’t start planning for the future, it’s less likely he or she will step away from the role.

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