Farms can last the test of time with some goals in place

Farms that succeed over time have the ability to develop long term goals and create common focus to achieve those goals.

The business of farming continues to grow which makes keeping the farm business intact and functional a challenge. When we look at how to continue the farm through changes in generations, the process and procedure can become foggy at best.

As a Michigan State University Extension farm management educator, I continue to work with farms and families in designing farm transition plans. If and when written goals are defined, they can be used to set in place a series of action steps to provide the vehicle to achieve the identified goal. The process of writing down on paper a goal creates something that is totally different from what would otherwise be just a want or desire. A written format puts the goal into an entirely different status as now it is recorded. Now the goal can be viewed and reviewed, not only by its creator, but by others. When you put a goal in a format that can be shared with others you have opened the opportunity and option for others to support the goal. Having goals that a team can focus on multiplies the energy and opportunity that it will succeed.

When setting the direction for the development of long term goals, first consider if it will support your mission statement. Remember a long term goal is rather general in nature. It defines the general direction to move the farm business. It also focuses attention on those things that are most important to achieve. In building long term goals, you should try to make sure that they have “DRIVE”. Which when broken down insures your goal is:

Directional - The goal gives the desired direction to move the business.

Reasonable - The goal has some possibility of being achieved.

Inspiring - The goal is challenging enough to get the business motivated to meet said goal.

Visible - There is some means in place to monitor the progress being made to obtain said goal.

Eventual - A time frame in place in which said goal will be achieved.

Using the acronym above, you can quickly evaluate the ability of your goals to meet the overall success of your mission statement. Consider applying this acronym to your written goals to see if they are defined in a manner in which you and others can relate. A well-defined goal has the highest opportunity to be successful.

If your goal has these components then you have something that others can understand and if they choose to provide support, can help to insure its success. It all starts with putting you goals on paper and then see what can happen when you share those goals with others.

Why spend time on goals as part of the transition process? It is very simple. Many people talk about what they want to do but until you define the intent and actions that are needed to take place, it is just talk and seldom achieved. When you put the goal on paper and share it with others, now you have accountability and the opportunity to gain the support and encouragement of others in your family and business. Just think about what could happen if your entire management team, consultants, friends and family were all supporting one goal. What is the possibility of success? This is the third installment in this farm transition series with more to come.

Steps in getting your farm transition plan in place:

  1. First line of paperwork is a will and/or trust
  2. Second step is to make sure you are maintaining a current and very detailed Balance Sheet inventory.  
  3. Are members of the family farm business setting goals?  
  4. Develop a vision for the farm business that focuses to a transition plan.
  5. Balance farm and non-farm issues that impact the farm business transition.

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