“We hadn’t even talked about succession before, we had our heads in the sand really,” says Taihape farmer Kerry Whale. “It’s a very complicated subject but now our family has a plan to build on and it’s opened communications among us about what the next ten years will look like.”
What made the difference was Kerry, wife Sue and two of their sons, Luke and Dane, taking part in the Red Meat Profit Partnership’s (RMPP) series of Farm Business Transition and Succession workshops.
Over half of New Zealand farmers identify succession planning as an issue for them, their family and their farm business. RMPP developed the workshops to take farm businesses through the transition and succession process. The family participated in workshops in Feilding, led by facilitator Geordie McCallum.
Former teacher Kerry is the third generation of his family to run their 7,000 head sheep and beef farm. Luke, their eldest son, works with him, Dane is a livestock representative with Silver Fern Farms in Feilding and youngest son Ben is currently teaching in the UK.
Participants attend three half-day facilitator-led workshops over a three to four month period, followed by a one-on-one clinic.
Kerry learned about the workshops through Beef + Lamb New Zealand while Dane also found out about them via a work email.
“It was just what we needed,” says Dane. “I’m a big advocate for having a plan in place. It was starting to unsettle me that we didn’t have anything.
“When I saw the email, I could see it would apply to quite a few of my clients and also my own family. The fact the workshops were free was a big advantage too. Getting independent advice can be very expensive.”
The first workshop covers the importance of understanding what all family members want and need from the transition and succession process – as an essential first step in developing a plan.
“That was awesome,” says Dane. “We are a pretty cruisy family and the serious conversations don’t happen too often, but we needed to have them. That first meeting was about planning the active conversation. Until that point, we literally hadn’t talked about it at all but that got the ball rolling.”
The second workshop focuses on establishing and maintaining strong management foundations in the family business, including identifying what structures and processes you need to investigate and implement to secure the management foundations of the family business.
“Geordie took us through all the different implications,” says Kerry. “He’s a very capable fellow and excellent in terms of what he brought to the table. It made clear for us that the biggest issue around succession is about legacy and the need to get succession planning right, so it doesn’t all fall over.”
Dane says the group setting was very effective.
“Dad was a very active participant in the conversations – he was really buzzing after the workshops. It helped us to recognise there is no right or wrong way of doing things, every family and business is different – and you can’t tell people what to do.
“Luke is already farming and I want to go back onto the farm in some shape or form at a later stage. While Ben is teaching overseas, we can’t discount the fact he might want to farm in the future. This has taught us to keep all the options open. It feels almost exciting to have finally taken these first steps.” The final one-on-one clinic with the facilitator and experts, provides an opportunity for farm families to discuss their individual issues.
“That was also very good,” says Kerry. “We are now much more aware of all the different implications. It is all about legacy and we don’t want things to fall over. This has opened conversations with all the stakeholders and the ideas are steadily forming for us now.”
Find out more
Visit the RMPP website to register your interest for upcoming workshops: https://www.rmpp.co.nz/page/farm-business-transition-and-succession-workshops/