“The succession-planning process is complex and lengthy. To keep your eye on the ball and meet your goals, your family must meet regularly to foster good communication and trust.”
The future for a farm family depends on family meetings that involve all stakeholders. The likelihood of success is bolstered by meeting in a neutral location, holding short meetings on a regular basis and setting clear goals, according to AgWeb.com’s article “Family Meeting Fundamentals.”
Families who want to hold one meeting a year that covers every single aspect of the succession plan, end up with a room full of confused and sometimes agitated participants. Meetings that occur on a more frequent basis, are more likely to succeed, since the process is complex and takes time to work through.
Make sure to include everyone. Leaving out a family member, like a spouse, can create resentment and lead to angry side disputes. Don’t create trouble, where none is needed!
Be smart about selecting a date for the meetings to take place. Steer clear of holidays, as there are usually enough emotional pitfalls for most families to deal with, without adding the family business into the mix.
Select a neutral location, where everyone can feel comfortable and that is free of distractions. You really do want their full attention. Select a convenient pleasant location to make these meetings welcoming and attractive.
Set an agenda for the meeting, so you are focused on specific topics and tasks.
You may find you need an outside facilitator to help, if your group dynamics are not working well. If there’s one person who tends to dominate conversations during social gatherings and family meetings, it will be hard to be productive.
If you are working with an estate planning attorney who is experienced in family businesses and particularly with the special challenges of family farms, he or she may be able to help you run the meeting better than if one of the family members steps up to take the lead. You know your family’s dynamics best—if cousin Susan could never get along with her sibling Mark, having an outside person present, may make her think twice about hurling insults.
Reference: AgWeb.com (May 29, 2018) “Family Meeting Fundamentals”