Succession Planning Is Tough

Jolene Brown at WA State Hort Association Meeting

In the keynote speech at the Washington State Horticulture Association’s (WSHA) 108th annual meeting this week in Yakima, Jolene Brown told a spellbound audience about her experiences in advising farm families trying — and often failing — at their businesses. Delivering the association’s famed Batjer Lecture, Brown bluntly told the audience: “There’s nothing better — or worse — than working with family members.”
The speech was designed to reflect the theme of the meeting chosen by outgoing WSHA president David Douglas: “Succession Planning: Preparing the Industry for the Next Generation.” Brown’s speech was as hard-hitting as its title: “Stop the Fighting on the Way to the Funeral Home!”
Brown, who has a family farm herself with her husband in Iowa, said she has heard a lot of horror stories from families in her years of consulting. Some are from the older generation, who wait all their lives for their kids to join them in the business — then find out they can’t get along. Others came from the younger generation, such as the young man who told her he couldn’t wait for his wife’s father to die. “And he meant it,” added Brown.
The key to being successful is to stop being a family-first business. Putting family first may sound nice, and 90% of family farms fall into that category, said Brown, but they only succeed on luck. Instead, Brown said she wanted those in the audience to become part of a business-first family. “If you don’t get the business right,” she said, “you will have neither family nor business.”
Brown then went over “The Top 10 Mistakes in Family Business.”
1) Assuming all genetic relationships equal good working relationships.
2) Believing the business can financially support any and all family members who want to work together.
3) Assuming others will/should/must change, and not me.
4) Presuming a conversation is a contract.
5) Believing mind reading is an acceptable form of communication.
6) Failing to build communication skills and meeting tools when the times are good so they’ll be in place to use when the times get tough.
7) Ignoring the in-laws, off-site family, and employees.
8) Forgetting to use common courtesy.
9) Having no legal and discussed estate plan, management and ownership transfer plan, or buy/sell agreement.
10) Neglecting vital facts of fair and equal, believing money solves relationship problems, and failing to celebrate.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Succession Planning Is Tough

  1. Jolene did a great job of bringing the message home that if we expect the next generation to continue the farms we've built that we must plan professionally, honestly and timely.

Business Planning Stories
(Photo credit: Wikimedia commons)
Business Planning
August 8, 2014
How To Hire The Best Employees In 7 Steps
The success of your farm market business depends on finding the right people to fill your needs. Read More
Money_generic
Business Planning
August 1, 2014
How To Secure A Farm Loan
From written plans to balance sheets, there are steps you need to take before moving forward with finances. Read More
Photo credit: Michigan Farmers Market Association
Business Planning
July 8, 2014
Increase Your Farmers Market Sales In A SNAP
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — and incentives that can double your sales to SNAP recipients — could be an untapped marketing opportunity for your produce . Read More
US_GenNext_2012_web
Business Planning
June 5, 2014
The Most Important Ag Census Number: 257,000 Millennials [Opinion]
The recent release of USDA’s Census of Agriculture shows some interesting trends in the demographic makeup of our nation’s farms and farmers. Read More
California
Business Planning
June 2, 2014
Ag Leadership Names Four New Board Members
New board members bring business experience and much more to the the table. Read More
business plan graph
Business Planning
June 1, 2014
Build A Better Business Plan For Your Farm
Setting goals and plotting how to reach them can help young farmers successfully navigate today’s financially troubled waters. Read More
piggy bank, money
Business Planning
May 15, 2014
Farm Credit Of Central Florida Announces Profit Sharing Gains
Patronage refunds strong despite difficult economic times. Read More
The Latest
Business Planning
September 13, 2015
10 Tips To Help Deal With Financial Diff…
These 10 pointers are designed to prepare you financially for changes in the agricultural economy. Read More
Business Planning
August 31, 2015
Be Food Safety Recall-Ready [Opinion]
No one ever wants to make someone sick after consuming fresh produce, but in spite of the protocols in place, recallls happen and you must be prepared. Read More
Business Planning
June 30, 2015
Take Climate Change — Please [Opinion]
It’s a difficult issue because people tend to think of it in terms of something tangible — like the weather. Read More
Business Planning
August 8, 2014
How To Hire The Best Employees In 7 Step…
The success of your farm market business depends on finding the right people to fill your needs. Read More
Business Planning
August 1, 2014
How To Secure A Farm Loan
From written plans to balance sheets, there are steps you need to take before moving forward with finances. Read More
Business Planning
July 8, 2014
Increase Your Farmers Market Sales In A …
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — and incentives that can double your sales to SNAP recipients — could be an untapped marketing opportunity for your produce . Read More
Business Planning
June 5, 2014
The Most Important Ag Census Number: 257…
The recent release of USDA’s Census of Agriculture shows some interesting trends in the demographic makeup of our nation’s farms and farmers. Read More
Business Planning
June 2, 2014
Ag Leadership Names Four New Board Membe…
New board members bring business experience and much more to the the table. Read More
Business Planning
June 1, 2014
Build A Better Business Plan For Your Fa…
Setting goals and plotting how to reach them can help young farmers successfully navigate today’s financially troubled waters. Read More
Business Planning
May 15, 2014
Farm Credit Of Central Florida Announces…
Patronage refunds strong despite difficult economic times. Read More
Business Planning
May 1, 2014
5 Tips To Secure Your Farm’s Finan…
It's never too early to start building your personal and business nest eggs. Read More
Business Planning
April 23, 2014
Free Trade Dynamics Deliver Possibilitie…
In a global economy, growers should be aware of market threats and opportunities. Read More
Business Planning
April 14, 2014
California Nurseryman To Discuss Land Us…
John Duarte to appear Thursday on Fox Business Network’s Stossel Show with John Stossel. Read More
Business Planning
April 3, 2014
Fundamentals Of The Affordable Care Act …
Here’s what small ag employers need to know as you prepare to implement changes required by national healthcare reform. Read More
Business Planning
March 12, 2014
New Farm Bill Encourages Growers To Buy …
Coverage critical as risks stand in the way of reward. Read More
Business Planning
March 1, 2014
How To Handle Human Resource Hurdles
Help is available for growers dealing with employee conflicts, looking for training options, and wading through legal matters. Read More
Business Planning
February 18, 2014
Opinion: Diversify Your Farm Or Die Tryi…
Choosing not to place all your eggs in one basket (so to speak) is being done out of necessity rather than novelty — and it’s paying off Read More
Business Planning
February 13, 2014
2 Ways Growers Can Adapt In An Improving…
Follow these tips to sustain your profit margin as commerce starts to rev up. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]