Farmer Focus: Plan for succession now

I’ve always known my brother and I were very fortunate in that Dad is a big believer in succession and early planning.

My grandpa began the transition when Dad was in his mid- to late-20s, and likewise with my brother, the transition from Dad to him was at the same age.

I began developing my own part in the business – again in my late 20s, once I stopped dossing about in Australia – but we can still do better with more communication and planning.

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Having heard numerous stories from farming friends, it has become clear to me how difficult succession can be if not managed well.

I recently attended a presentation on the subject and it demonstrated, with the help of roleplay, how the most “normal” of farming families can get into all kinds of problems if not managed correctly.

Succession can either be a well-thought-out, planned transition, empowering the younger members of the family, with the enthusiasm and new ideas. And teamed with guidance from the older generation, this provides the experience and knowledge to continue the success of the business.

Or it can be an event that is forced upon you, which can be costly to the business and upsetting to family relationships, along with stressful legal issues.

Many families find it a hard subject to broach as they are worried about opening up a can of worms and upsetting family members. Those cans are only going to get bigger if not dealt with.

Surely it’s better to have the discussion and clarify expectations and vision for the business for all involved? Planning around the event is essential to avoid the alternative of, in extreme cases, irreparable damage to family relationships and catastrophic effects on the business.

And if you’re waiting for the right time – the right time is now. It can be easy to put these things off and make excuses, so plan a meeting with a professional, be it a solicitor, an accountant, or a succession adviser, so long as that meeting happens.

It may cost to pay a professional for an hour or two of their time, but I’d bet it’ll cost a lot less financially and emotionally than putting it off until it becomes the inevitable “event”.

Anna Longthorp

Anna runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows.

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