The Trouble with Assumptions.....

The Trouble with Assumptions.....

9th July 2019

Ensuring the smooth transition of one generation to the next in any family business is always a challenge, and for those in the farming community it is no different.

There are many issues that face the farming industry over which it has no control, the economy and the market place in particular, but farmers are also very busy with the day to day needs of the farm. Don’t let these challenges get in the way of allocating appropriate time to discuss what will happen when the senior generation heads towards retirement age. With any succession the key is to start the discussions and process as early as possible and to ensure that those family members involved have an opportunity to truly explore all the options open to them.

Assumptions made without proper consideration, or honest and open dialogue can be used as an excuse to avoid taking the necessary steps that will ensure a smooth succession process.

Here are some of the assumptions made by different generations that we experience when working with families:

Senior Generation
• We can’t afford to hand over the farm – not yet/until…./ever.
• Of course, they will want to take on the running of the farm, they have grown up on it and love it.
• Their futures are better elsewhere, as it is too difficult to make a living from farming these days.
• It will lead to conflict between siblings.
• I know what I had to go through when I took over the running of the farm and I just don’t think they are up to it.
• They are too young for us to start raising this subject.
• They won’t want us living on the farm.
• Their answers won’t have changed since we last spoke to them about any of this.
• I don’t know what to put in my Will, but I am sure it will all sort out in the end.

• They won’t ever retire. It’s in their blood and they will want to keep working for as long as they can.
• They might say they will retire but they won’t really want to let go and let us run it.
• They won’t want us to leave the farm, so we will have to take on the running of it even though I would prefer a career elsewhere.
• They don’t want to discuss succession / we can’t raise it.
• We won’t have the means to buy the farm or take over the running of it.
• Mum and dad will have thought all this through and will have it all planned out. We have nothing to worry about.
• The farm is not big enough to be able to support all of us.

Are you aware of your own assumptions made around this topic? Assumptions tend to be developed out of our own experiences, but experiences and circumstances can be different for one generation to the next. Do you recognise some of your assumptions from the examples above? Have your assumptions been checked by asking questions of other family members?

Why not use this short article as a means to get the necessary conversations started amongst the family?

In our role as neutral, non-family facilitators we regularly sit at the centre of these discussions and can assist families find a way through the succession maze.

This article first appeared in The Scottish Farmer