By Pip Job, Department of Primary Industries. As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual
When I speak to farming families, I am often asked for advice or insights relating to succession planning. More often than not, people wish to share their succession horror stories or the deep fear existing in family members to even whisper the word succession. Recently I had a lady share with me how wonderful their succession process went and that the whole process was driven by her husband. Unfortunately, post implementation of their new plan, her husband struggled with the change in leadership and struggled with the shearing team, looking to his son for guidance and direction. His mental wellbeing deteriorated as a result; despite the best of intentions to undertake succession. One might ask if the transition of the succession plan required deeper exploration.
One thing I have learnt is that transitioning to something new requires so much more than a nice paper plan. There are foundational requirements that will make the transition process smoother and also sustain the wellbeing of everyone in the business. Farm families must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses across factors such as family communication, business acumen, mental wellbeing, passion alignment, work-life harmony, their attitude towards learning and leadership styles.
Communication is essential and effective communication can lift a business from good to great. Not everyone is a great communicator, but there are strategies that can be put in place by a family to improve their communication skills. Simple strategies such as weekly meetings to discuss operational matters (who will do what, what’s needed) can remove significant stress whilst also being great for business acumen. Quarterly strategic family meetings to review budgets and plan for the quarter ahead are also highly beneficial for both the business and the people in it.
Creating an environment in your family business where people are safe to introduce new ideas and provide feedback on aspects of the business is easier said than done. Sometimes great effort is required as an individual to break old habits and to foster a new culture of communication in the family. Most often, the way we communicate is inherited from our parents and a transition to a new communication style can be difficult and require great determination and resolve. Becoming more aware of ourselves and exploring personal development is a great way to help you improve your skills and there are all sorts of courses, books and online resources at our fingertips these days to explore.
Farm family businesses need to enhance their business acumen and this is an important part of transitioning ownership to the next generation. Understanding the passions of people in the business is important. As too is financial literacy and having business goals, and a strategic decision-making framework to work within is crucial. Family farms are a complex business model; meshing business, family and life together. Adding layers of stress (climatic, economic, etc…) make our investment in our own mental wellbeing crucially important. There are so many balls to juggle in agriculture, but after all, with practice, we can master it.
The new Positive Farming Footprints workshop delivered through DPI is a workshop developed by Pip Job, 2014 NSW/ACT & National Rural Women’s Award Winner and is now approved through the Rural Assistance Authority for the NSW Farm Business Skills—Professional Development Program.
The one-day workshop walks farm families through the diverse range of people problems that can stop a business from reaching its full potential. The interactive and engaging style ensures that families leave with a greater insight into their strengths and a list of areas in which they will work to strengthen and provides them with a range of tools and tips to take home and apply immediately.
Pip will be giving a presentation on family communication and achieving harmony at a special IWD event – Women.Agri.Business – hosted by MBC this Friday 10 March at Eugowra. The event is aimed at empowering women in agribusiness through increasing their education, knowledge and understanding. Event organisers MBC said ‘we recognise that primary production is a complex business. It is important for women to develop strength in tax & finances, risk management & marketing, as well as building expert relationships and asking for help as and when needed.’ You can still purchase tickets however you will need to get in quick.
Pip Job, Senior Project Officer
Business & Social Resilience Programs
Department of Primary Industries
m: 0437 241 688