I’m excited to announce that next Tuesday, October 30th, I’ll be featured in a podcast on www.forbes.com with the Forbes Coaches Council. I’ll be discussing the value of strategic thinking in an excerpt from my upcoming book (more details on that in November!). As a primer to next week’s podcast, let’s consider the need for strategic thinking as it relates to the massive knowledge and land transfer going on right now at the farm and in agribusiness. I speak and consult mostly in agriculture, so it would be easy to think that our industry is the only one with these issues, but we’re not. Dena Jalbert, writing for Chief Executive magazine notes that “70 percent of businesses in the lower middle market are projected to change hands in the next 10 years.” We’re not alone as an industry because like CEO’s of other lower mid-market companies, those defined as $10 million – $60 million, we’re often still led by baby boomers. “The owners and CEOs of lower middle-market companies are predominately of the baby boomer generation. Now retiring, and in some cases, facing mortality, these CEOs and owners find themselves without a succession plan in place. Many do not employ a full C-Suite of executives,” adds Jalbert. So, if we’re not alone in storing up massive amounts of knowledge in just a couple of generations, does that make it okay? don’t think so and you probably don’t either. What I know is that these situations, while common, are lethal to agriculture’s longevity. They don’t work anymore. This lack of strategy effects everything. It doesn’t help operators get financing they need today, doesn’t allow employees to have clarity of leadership and in the longevity of their jobs, and above all, the ‘someday strategy’ attitude certainly doesn’t enable families to get along. It turns out strategic planning is actually a great strategy for happiness!
All this said, how do the statistics in the snapshot above reflect your operation’s plans – or lack of plans? Do you know who will be in charge of your operation in two years, five years, or ten years? Are they prepared? If not, what conscious effort is being made to get them prepared? Are they working in the business now and if not, is there a track to get them there? If you’re on the younger side of 40, how are you being groomed and educated to lead the farm for another generation? What is being done to develop and coach the emerging leaders for your business?
With your answer in mind, its time to take inventory of your people arsenal. It’s time to either begin or update your overall operational, personnel, and succession strategy to implement the necessary recruiting, training, and development to get your people the needed experience and build the deep expertise required for a successful transition that is best for your operation.