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From the editor: Having no succession plan is the worst plan of all

Succession continues to be one of the most emotive and inflammatory issues that can be spoken about within many farming businesses, as evidenced by the findings of a recent seminar on the issue, writes Ben Briggs.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

With 63 per cent of those who responded to a poll at the NFU conference admitting they had no succession plan, it shows the shocking level of unpreparedness many farmers have in regards to this crucial aspect of their business.

 

And while that was only a small sample of people in one session, it is clear succession is a major stumbling block for farms across the country.

 

But does it have to be this way and why is planning for the future of a business, particularly ones involving family, so hard?

 

A prime reason might be the fact succession naturally tackles life’s big issues head on, namely life and death. If you have to think about how the farm will run once you are gone, it is perhaps understandable why it is not something people want to obsess over.

 

Another major reason, and one which has been highlighted in scores of reports, is the conflict which can arise from having several generations of the same family giving their views on how a business should be run.

 

If one generation has been in charge for a long time, it can be difficult to relinquish control and things can easily become emotionally charged as different personalities start to clash.


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Image and identity also play a big part. If you have been a farmer all your life, the prospect of no longer running the business can make some individuals feel as though their identity is being stripped away, and the reaction can be to ignore the looming problem.

 

But ignoring the issue is the worst course of action. Having a plan in place for the future of a business can not only help facilitate a smooth transition should different partners decide to proactively depart, but it also means there is a fall-back option should ill health, or worse, strike the operation.

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