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Succession planning in the new BSE Reality


I asked a cattle producer friend of mine recently if he was going to get his kids into the family business. He replied, “Nope, I don’t believe in child abuse!” and went on to say that succession issues have never been more of a concern than they are today in the new BSE Reality.

Pressures surrounding BSE’s impact have made it especially tough to convince the next generation to remain on the farm. To address these issues, and to help ensure a solid future, succession planning must be a key part of your comprehensive business plan.

Reviewing Your Operation

To build a solid succession plan - and integrate it into your business plan - sit down and review your operation with your family. Because this may be an emotional discussion for some family members, you may want to have an objective third party facilitate this process.

Some questions you will need to look at during this time include:

  • Where is your operation today, and where do you want it to be in five to ten years?
  • Is your business financially healthy?
  • What is the actual business you are in?
  • What are your potential options?

With this information you can develop a clear vision of where your family sees your operation today, where your family wants the operation to be in the future, and, most importantly, how you can transfer ownership and management to the next generation.

Evaluating Your Current Situation

Take a candid look at who within your family are potential candidates to take over your business - and whether they have the skills to do so successfully. What kind of personal and educational development is necessary to help them get ready for the next step?

Review key opportunities and potential threats to your business. With this evaluation, you will have the foundation you need to put your plans into action.

Assessing Key Issues

Every succession plan should address key issues such as financial performance and the timeframe/critical path for transitioning ownership. Try to establish financial indicators to help gauge your business’s progress over time - and be sure to monitor those indicators to help you keep on target. Think about your ideal time frame/critical path for achieving your goals and then follow a realistic action plan to achieve them

Developing Your Strategic Road Map

Develop and agree to any key action items required to address the issues you identified earlier. Priorize in detail any steps your professional advisor has recommended as part of your transition process. Most importantly, make this roadmap the basis for your family’s personal and business strategic plan.

The Result: A Process That Provides the Foundation To Succeed

Your plan needs to be consistent yet flexible enough to respond to where your family wants the business to go and how you want to manage its transition to the next generation. The transfer of ownership and management is not a one-off event; it is an ongoing process that must adapt to changing business and family situations...

BSE has been a brutal wake-up call for your business and family. We have all learned we cannot take anything for granted and that no one can predict the future. But by preparing for the future through a comprehensive succession plan, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have provided for future generations and built the foundation to help them succeed in the New BSE Reality.

By Andrew Raphael, Director of Agri-food. Originally published in Alberta Beef (February 2005). For more information on this topic, please contact your local MNP advisor or Andrew at 604.685.8408.