Farming Families and Succession: Sort out the Soft Stuff

Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme - Mark Stevenson

Type: PDF
Knowledge level: Intermediate

Farm Table says:

This is a literature analysis of existing succession planning research. Has some handy tips around communication and relationships that may assist in your succession journey.

What is the problem?

Mark Stevenson completed the following paper as part of his Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme in New Zealand. The objective of the research was to provide a practical guide to assist both retiring and succeeding generations to approach the issue of succession with each other. The overarching objective is to improve relationships and communication.

What did the research involve?

Secondary research was performed over a wide range of literature.

What were the key findings?

Four major categories of inhibitors to successful farm transition were found:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of a structured process
  • History, harmony and family dynamics
  • Delayed timing of succession

To avoid the inhibitors, three pillars of successful farm succession were put forward:

  1. Commit to making a start.
  2. Develop, define and follow a process.
  3. Succession must be considered as a process
  • Feelings before facts
  • Treat succession as an ongoing discussion, not one discrete conversation
  • Address the financials
  • Respect differences in personalities
  • Develop a vision
  • Include all family members
  • Build flexibility into the process
  • Lead succession
  • Seek advice
  • All family members must commit to the process

Commit to effective communication.

Final comment

Mark closes with this final note:

“If starting is daunting, think about what will happen if things don’t start, succession discussions are avoided and no planning takes place? Will that be harder? Delaying starting allows expectations, realistic or not, to further cements themselves and assumptions to grow. This can lead to disappointment and resentment within the family.”

2013 - New Zealand - Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme - Mark Stevenson
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