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From the editor: Succession planning needs an open and honest approach

The word succession, by its very definition, implies the notion of continuity, of one thing after another.

It also alludes to taking on a role vacated by someone else, of inheritance, even. It is a word loaded with meaning and one which could be hindering the farming mindset when it comes to moving businesses forward.

 

The industry would be far better talking about the ‘next steps’ for a business, or even ‘future proofing’, phrases which are less emotive, less personal and have less emphasis on individuals.

 

Given the make-up of so many farm businesses and their family structure, anything which removes emotive terminology from the decision-making process would be a good thing.

 

After all, it is not always the case that there are natural successors. For many farms it could be about making the right call for the underlying health of the business or the person who has led it for a long time, even if that means individuals are left feeling aggrieved in the process.

 

As straight-talking Holstein UK president Bryan Thomas says farming will increasingly be viewed through the commercial, not lifestyle, lens, and that means sound commercial judgements need to be made.


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Succession do’s and don’ts: ‘Planning is the responsibility of all family members’ Succession do’s and don’ts: ‘Planning is the responsibility of all family members’

That clarity of thought about the underlying business is sometimes not easy to achieve.

 

For so many families, the farm and associated business, if there is one, are part of their identity, they define the rhythm and pattern of their lives, and the individuals within it all derive different things from it, not just financially but often emotionally.

 

However difficult the discussions might be, it pays to have a clear plan in place for the future of a business, whether that is about who takes over next or what happens in case of ill health.

 

Too often that plan, or how the business operates, exists solely in the head of one person, which creates issues if they depart.

 

Being open and honest can be emotionally charged, but having a clearly formulated and agreed set of next steps is crucial for the long-term sustainability of a business, and also the personal relationships within it.

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