Succession advice from farm families

Family Farm Succession
June 14, 2017
By Family Farm Succession
We've gathered the best succession advice from farming families and experts who have been through the process. Here's what worked and what they would have done differently, given the opportunity. 

1. “All parties involved (including spouses) need to know the ultimate end goal of everyone. All aspects of the transition have to be transparent and make sense to all involved. Non-farming children don't need to know all aspects of the business, but should be made aware of the basic structure and what it looks like.” – Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

2. “Meetings! Make sure you’re having family meetings weekly. Sit and discuss what jobs need to be done that week.” – Kelsey Abel, Minnedosa, Man., via Facebook.

3. “Plan ahead. Ask the [next] generation what they really want – that is everything.” – Darryl Zamecnik, president of EZ Grow Farms in Langton, Ont.

4. “Anyone with a concern, no matter how small or big, has to bring it to the table to discuss. A small misunderstanding early on can make for a problem years down the road. Be open and don't hesitate to ask any questions. At the end of it, the succession plan has to be 100 per cent understood by everyone.”– Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

5. “Assemble a trusted team: your accountant, lawyer, farm advisor, insurance broker. It's so crucial to take time to execute the plan properly.” – Diane Rourke, Minto, Man., via Twitter.

6. “If I could do it again, I’d have us write things down a bit more; come up with formal timelines and goals within the planning process. If we could have broken things into smaller bites and really set timelines, everyone would have been a little more reassured about where things were at.” – Simon Ellis, Ellis Seeds, Wawanesa, Man.

7. “You need to instill the knowledge and lifestyle in your children, but then let them make the decision to come back to the farm on their own.” – Don Sundgaard, Sundgaard Poultry Farm in Standard, Alta.

8. “Give it lots of time – four to five years for a complete transition. Don’t rush into any decisions. Do things properly.” – Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

9. “We spent a lot of time making sure that our accountant, banker and lawyer met together regularly and conversed with each other. That probably made the whole process a lot easier because everyone on the team was on the same page from start to finish.” – Brent Oswald, Cottonwood Holsteins, Steinbach, Man.

10. “Quoting our succession planner: ‘Don't let the tax tail wag the dog.’ A lot of people get caught up in not wanting to pay tax. Although it is undesirable to pay tax, it is much more important to do things properly to benefit the family instead of the bank account.” – Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

11. “It’s not a short term project, it takes many many years and that might scare some people off, it takes so long to develop and you pick away at it. I think you just gotta get started and as far as one piece of advice, you can talk to one of your professionals, whether it’s your accountant or your lawyer, and ask them ‘what’s the process and can I at least get started on this?’ If you haven’t gone to meetings, start going to meetings, making notes, having a file that you put stuff in and you get the process started that’s the main thing.” – Barry McBlain, McBlain Farms Ltd. in Brant, Ont.

12. “You just have to seek resources...I would recommend just continuing to seek resources, FCC or seminars, those kind of things where there’s financial stuff being talked about and you just have to not quit learning ever, keep on learning. And talking to people who know more.” – Garrett Sawatzsky, agricultural finance professor at the University of Manitoba School of Agriculture.

13. “Start talking, not just thinking about it, but start talking about it today. If you're not sure how to start talking about it, get some advice from someone who has been through it, whether it's a friend, a neighbour, or professional advisor that works with farm families. I'm saying talk about it because communication is very important. I think you have to get this stuff off your chest and really be willing to share with most importantly your families what your fears are, and what your real true goals and objectives are for yourself, your farm business and your family.” – Jeff Noble, director of business and wealth transition at BDO Canada, in Ontario.

14. “They need to start and I think one of the ways to start, is within the farm family, determine what it is that they're working towards, when they want to see that happen, and start to understand the differentiation between transferring ownership and transferring management.” – Terry Betker, president of Backswath Management Inc. in Winnipeg, Man.

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