What I am writing about this week is the same subject as last week: transition planning, which is a more accurate term than succession planning, for ranchers and farmers.
This might apply to other businesses too or even your estate planning.
You can’t take the ranch with you when you die, not the land, not the cows, not the green machines (John Deere) or blue ones (Ford New Holland.)
Your favourite horse won’t follow you and in the Paradise Beyond, the Creator won’t let you harrow any manure on the fields.
In fact it is over for you when you die and there is no ranching in your afterlife.
What lives after us is our reputation and the memories people have of us. Depending how we ate during our lives we may fertilize some daisies or pollute the ground too.
Our last hurrah ought to be the legacy we leave.
That legacy will be the happiness of the next generations if we have offspring. Or just having helped them get what they need, materially and spiritually. Legacy stuff is not just material.
I don’t want any deathbed reconciliations, apologies. I want the peace of knowing I tried to ensure my family inherited good values and good character and can take care of their families and support those who have less fortune than I through their good citizenship.
To accomplish this those of us in control of our ranches need to share more and more about the plans for the future.
We need to get the transition plan in place while we have all (most) of our faculties.
How’s your short term memory these days.
Now you don’t have to leave the ranch when you have a plan in place to turn it over.
You might want access to the shop for tinkering or fixing your grandpa’s tractor. You might want to store your boat in a shed there.
Or you might want to downsize your house by letting the operating managers live in the family home and build you and your wife that ideal little home she has always wanted.
I want someone to feed my horses when we holiday in the winter, because we have missed quite a few in the years gone by. Don’t we spend the best weather time here putting up hay or sorting cattle, rather than boating and fishing.
If our adult children can’t do as good a job as we have done by now then we aren’t going to change that in the years we have left. They will be as good or better than we were during our most productive days.
We do have to let go of control, involve the family in the planning for the transition to our retirement from full out work on the place. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like the hired hand again and just be told what to do in the shop or in the field.
No more burdensome decisions. Let that fall on the broader shoulders of those coming after us.
If you don’t have offspring who want the place and you care that the ranch gets into caring, capable hands, there are websites where you can find a successor who has no opportunity in their family.
And if you want to mentor them, it is quite possible you can live out your days continuing to provide guidance to a young person. Best do that when you are most able.
I could go on, but I will end on this note: get along and communicate well with your family when you plan the future of the ranch. If you have trouble, get a coach and some great advisors; lawyer, accountant, financial planner.
This isn’t me talking. I am passing on the advice of people who have to deal with the wrecks caused by our inability to face our families with humility, generosity of heart and a healthy mind.
David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake in January of 2016.