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Skip the Secrets: Your Farm’s Succession Plan Should be Shared

You’ve thought about who will run your farm in the future. You may have even identified the next leader. But have you shared those plans and dreams with your team – or that potential successor?

“Many families make the mistake of attempting to develop a plan by guessing what family members want rather than asking them directly,” says Rena Striegel, president of Transition Point Business Advisors. “Assumptions made at the beginning of the process are often the source of big disappointments later.”

Clarity and certainty about the future of the farm are important to next-generation farmers.

“They want to know their time, effort and sweat are being invested in a future they can count on,” Striegel says. “Lack of planning can cause your kids to build a backup plan to taking over your farm. If your kids don’t think you are serious about letting them take over, they will get serious about farming somewhere else.”

Full Transparency

Your farm’s succession plan affects everyone on your team and in your family, says Mary Kelly, CEO of Productive Leaders and a 20-year veteran of the Navy.

“Don't keep it a secret,” she says. “Let the team know – especially that person who is being groomed for that higher position.”

This type of transparency removes surprises for your team and can create higher levels of employee engagement, adds Meridith Elliott Powell, business strategist and author.

“Succession planning creates ownership at every level,” she says. “You want everyone in your business to be as passionate as you are about growth in the organization.”

Share your farm’s vision and leadership plan with key partners, such as landlords, lenders and key suppliers.

“You’ll be surprised how much power and influence you’ll receive with those who work with when they know you have a succession plan,” Powell says.


A huge mistake leaders often make in succession planning is choosing their favorites, explain Mary Kelly and Meridith Elliott Powell, authors of the new book, “Who Comes Next? Leadership Succession Planning Made Easy.” Their suggestion is to build an avatar, which includes all the skills, talents and personality traits that would make the next leader excel.

“This avatar becomes your guide and your litmus test as to who you choose for succession, and more importantly, who you don’t,” Kelly says. “It is easy to pick or want somebody like you. But sometimes that likability factor can blind us to the actual best choice.”

December 29, 2020



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