Build a Management “Team” For Your Family Farm or Agri-Business

Rincker Law Estate Planning Leave a Comment

This is my mother during one of her visits to the Big Apple. She runs the farm books with my family's cattle operation. I hope to learn the accounting side of Rincker Simmentals soon so I can jump into this role if necessary at some point.

One of the biggest hurdles in successfully passing down a family business (with any kind of family business) is training its successors.  Same is true with family farming operations or agri-businesses, which require specialized knowledge and skill sets. Failure to do so adequately can mean the end to a family business with the manager deceases or is no longer able to manage the business.  When formulating a successful succession plan, Neil Harl brilliantly suggested in this book that farms and agri-businesses build a management team.

By definition, a team consists of more than one individual (there’s no “I” in Team, right?).  Harl suggests that a management “team” (instead of a singular person) will help the farm or agribusiness “weather disruptions.”  Furthermore, training successors is paramount in the succession planning process.  Here are some of his suggestions that I liked:

(1) stressing the idea of a team approach to decision-making;

(2) nurture the development of management skills;

(3)  emphasize cross-training; and,

(4)  develop a system for routine communication.

Additionally, I think farms and agri-businesses should be especially vigilant in training folks to run the business side of the farm and agribusiness.  Not everyone feels comfortable handling the accounting end of the business and I believe that the entire management team should be trained to do so.  It’s important that everyone know and understand the numbers of their operation.

As a final note, I like the idea of family farms and agri-businesses being run by a management team.  I think it forces folks to set aside their own egos and refocus on the bigger picture — to help the family business continue to grow for many generations to come.

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