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The power of target dates, timelines and action

Elaine Froese Published on 19 November 2013

There’s nothing scarier for farm families who are trying to gain control over their lives than to have no clue about what the future holds.

I am chuckling as I write because recently I have been gently asked over the phone if I would like the “senior’s discount” for age 55-plus, and I qualify.

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I wonder what’s in my future as a senior.

I am only three years away from age 60 and the “brown envelope” early option.

Time has a way of slipping quickly by, something like the toilet paper roll that spins faster as it reaches the end of the roll.

Don’t let it slip away from you. Please promise yourself and your next-generation farm partners that you are going to engage the power of target dates, timelines and action.

Here are five steps to help you accomplish that goal.

1. Speak to your spouse about letting go of power and control of the farm, and what that might look like.

This means taking your spouse out on a date to have fun, to engage in intimate conversations about what is keeping you awake at night.

Then decide on the day on which you will become the hired man again. I don’t expect that you are ever going to retire, just “re-invent” yourself and your roles.

2. Set a meeting with your accountant and tax planners to discuss your net worth, your living costs and your intentions to bring along the next generation.

Remember that April 30 is always a deadline you honour with your accountant, so how about a deadline for farm transition? It’s a process and may need to be a series of deadlines.

3. Action begets more action, so you are going to have coffee in a casual way with your family to talk about your dreams for the next new chapter in your life.

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This includes the farming and non-farm business heirs. Perhaps you can meet with each adult child independent of the others.

Trust me, they are scared that you are not dealing with your future lifestyle choices, and they want you to enjoy the fruit of your labour. Have courageous conversations.

4. Bedtime reading for nights that are short of sleep could include my book: Do the Tough Things Right … How To Prevent Communication Disasters In Family Business and other books and articles on communication and farm transition.

Psalm 16 (NIV) says, “I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” I truly believe that “the wise counsel God gives when I’m awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart” (The Message). What messages are feeding you and kick-starting you to take action?

5. Book some counseling time if you are emotionally distraught and need new coping skills.

I am encouraged when coaching clients realize that “counseling is about recovery and coaching is about discovery.”

Some folks need to have therapy to release the burden that is keeping them stuck in neutral. Take care of your mental health.

Here is the farming forecast for this November: Many aging, 55-plus farmers are procrastinating and not sleeping well.

There is a tug of war on their heart regarding their fear of failure. Should they turn things over gradually?

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What will their new roles be? Will anyone really appreciate them when they get older or thank them for what they have helped to grow?

Face your fears. Talk with your spouse. Set dates. Act. Then celebrate your family relationships and business success.

A large pumpkin filled with crushed ice and glass bottles of orange Crush pop is my favourite childhood October birthday memory.

My mom was also great at putting money in wax paper in the layered chocolate birthday cake and making special cookies.

These memories did not cost a lot of money to create, but they did take time and intentionality.

Strong families celebrate. Think about how great you are going to feel when you embrace the power of target dates and timelines.

Take the time this fall to set target dates for action for your farm business continuance success.

Let your trusted team of advisers help you confirm what prices and money targets need to be proposed.

Just like my October-themed birthday parties, I hope you get as much delight from your next generation’s feedback as we did when we discovered the quarters in the birthday cake. It really is the small things in life that make a big difference.

Don’t let the little foxes of family irritations spoil the vineyard of potential success.

Keep your promises. Honour the timelines and dates. Be concrete with your proposals. Then your entire family will sleep well at night and be certain of their future.

Have a great life. Don’t embrace fear; live intentionally. Remember, it’s your farm, your family and your choice.  PD

Elaine Froese creates a safe place for courageous conversations. She coaches families and mediates across Canada. 

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