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The 5-Minute Succession Plan

Sara Schafer


November 11, 2020



Your farm’s future path might be winding and complex but starting the process can be simple. “Your organization needs your knowledge, skills and abilities, and they also need to plan for a time when you are not there,” says Mary Kelly, CEO of Productive Leaders. She offers this template to think through the process. 


Start By Working Backward

1. Assess the current roles and responsibilities of the position. How has the position evolved? Is the job description still accurate? 2. How will this job change in three to five years? 3. What is the projected time for the current employee to leave? 4. What likely challenges will the next leader face? (Ex.: depressed prices, land availability, mergers and acquisitions, new regulations, changing technology, evolving customer preferences, employee talent development, etc.) 5. What competencies will the successor need? 6. What specific leadership skills will the new leader need?

Leadership Competencies

Before you can build a succession plan, identify the skills and talents your successor must have, Kelly says. Consider the traits below and rank their importance on your farm — feel free to add or delete.


Vision: The ability to craft, communicate and engage others in the long-term goals of the farm.

Business Judgment: The ability to make sound and solid decisions in the best interest and long-term health of the operation.

Industry Knowledge: A solid grasp of the history, current challenges and future opportunities of the industry. A strong network of peers and influencers within the industry is helpful.

Crisis Management: The ability to quickly analyze, understand and navigate challenging situations.

Financial Acumen: A strong understanding and expertise in financial matters both internal and external to the farm.

Conflict Management: The ability to immediately identify, address conflict and help others work toward a peaceful solution.

Talent Development: The ability to attract, retain and fully develop top talent.

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