Grow the business but put family first | OPINION

Grow the business but put family first | OPINION


Editorial
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Keep things (mainly family) in perspective when planning the farm's future.

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Editorial

SUCCESSION planning can be a pretty dry topic.

It's basically discussing who will take over the farm in years to come.

In the past decade particularly, some of the older, older farmers have realised they won't be able to drive the tractor or pick the fruit themselves, much less keep up with the digital paper trail required these days.

This has prompted the need to think about the future.

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Lots of the articles, columns and advice pieces about succession planning focus on the financial considerations, transitioning title deeds and infrastructure requirements of a change in ownership.

It was refreshing then to hear at a recent Agforum several speakers touch on the need to put family first in such matters (full story here).

And not even just when a pioneer is moving on but the need to put family first even as a business grows in the present.

One of the speakers was Janelle Gerry, a director and finance/administration manager of the Bundaberg-based horticulture success stories, Macadamias Australia and Farmfresh Fine Foods.

"In our family business, family is most important. At the end of the day, everyone belongs," Mrs Gerry said.

"Good family businesses come from good families."

It's no secret the pursuit of money and worldly gain splits families, ruins relationships and breaks hearts.

Family business expert and director of Liquid Gold Consultants, Susanne Bransgrove, also drove home the need to prioritise what matters.

"Often the business and the family are separated. But if you're investing too much into the business and not the family, then what's the point of the business?" she said.

There are some horror stories out there. One of the not uncommon ones is for the one daughter or son to stick with the property and keep it going while the others go off to find their own way in other fields.

Upon the death of a parent, they come streaming back home, hands out, waiting to be given "their fair share".

It's no secret the pursuit of money and worldly gain splits families, ruins relationships and breaks hearts.

It doesn't have to be this way though. It seems it all comes back to communication.

Of course, it could be a case that none of the children want to take up agriculture as a career, and the family property needs to be sold off.

Some bridges have been burned that might seem like they can never be rebuilt but love endures all things so there's always hope.

This, of all the scenarios, could be the most gut wrenching for the parents who have no doubt poured their lives into the land.

But even here, perhaps most of all, a chat, discussion, talk or meeting has to be had.

At the Agforum, succession planning was described as an "imperfect journey", meaning not everything will fall into place neatly.

But that's family in general, from the chaos of the morning school run or the high tensions of a family wedding and even through to "who's making the punch for Christmas day?".

It's important not to sweat the small stuff and keep the bigger picture, or family unity, in mind.

Some bridges have been burned that might seem like they can never be rebuilt but love endures all things so there's always hope.

Perhaps passing on the agricultural business isn't on your radar as yet.

Even so, engaging with the family involved, even the young ones, on how things operate, the importance of various practices and the business's ethics will lay solid groundwork for years to come.

When it is time, it will make those conversations so much easier.

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