Alert family to succession planning
Now you need to let the rest of the family know that planning for the future is on your mind. You don’t need to solve everything today or worry about the details. Just start the conversation.
Family has a lot of possible definitions. It’s not just an owner’s kids but their spouses too. Spouses affect the decisions an owner’s children make, their needs, their hopes and aspirations. There may also be an aging parent on the farm who may require care and support from the farm and its owners so they should be aware of succession planning too.
Any family members and spouses who rely, or will rely, on the farm in one way or another need to know you’re thinking about succession planning. The group should be as large as needed.
Short, individual chats
It’s best to have a conversation with each family member individually. This allows each person (or set of spouses) to speak as freely as possible without worrying about offending other family members.
Speak individually with each child and his/her spouse. You might start the conversation with something like, “Your mother/father and I were talking recently about the future, what we want to do when we retire, and the plan for the farm. We need to start planning ahead for all that.” And let the conversation flow from there.
Your goal is to let them know you’re thinking about it and get a loose idea of the role they see the farm playing in their future. Ask an open-ended question they can’t answer with a yes or no to get their perspective. For a child, it might be, “We’re curious what your thoughts are on the farm, if it’s part of your future plans.”
For another family member who you know doesn’t want a life on the farm, it might not be a question at all but more of an assurance: “We’re going to figure out what’s best for everyone involved and include the family in the planning as much as we can.”
You can wrap things up by letting them know you’re chatting with everyone individually. Also let them know the succession plan is important for family peace and togetherness. So you’ll be asking everyone to be a part of it in one way or another.
I’m ready to start the conversation with the rest of the family.