FORGET fickle seasons and fluctuating cattle markets, research is indicating those at the helm of family beef operations consider the task of handing the reigns on to the next generation the single largest challenge.
Certainly it’s on the minds of the beef industry’s younger generation.
The 2016 recipients of an innovative program designed to foster leadership skills in the next generation of the northern pastoral industry opted to focus on succession planning for their presentation at the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association conference this year.
Called Future NTCA, the program’s participants Georgie Chisholm, Kate Webster, Grayson Webster and Steve Hayes joined with the head of Brisbane based family business advising firm FINH David Harland to shine the spotlight on the challenge of transitioning farms to the next generation.
They presented an entertaining skit drawing attention to hurdles a family farm business runs into when a crisis happens and members are thrust into serious decision making.
Their conclusion: communication is the key.
“Historically speaking, the thinking has been business is business and family is family and they should be kept apart,” Mr Harland said.
“In fact, all the global research says the issue is how you bring them together - how you make these two systems work together like a well oiled machine.
“That comes down to putting in place a structure and a process of communication.
“Decision making will flow and you will be able to preserve what is really the value in the farm - the family is the value in a family business.”
Everyone thinks succession is about legal transfer of ownership, assets going from A to B, but it is far more than that, according to Mr Harland.
He outlined what he has found are three main ‘necessities’ of getting right the transition.
“You must deal with leadership - in both the family and business - and that takes years to develop,” he said.
“Stewardship of the business has to be considered. The next generation are the entrusted people to take hold of these financial assets and grow them.
“It’s about how you hand over the baton, how it will be carried and how it will be passed on again.
“Thirdly, there is a need to think globally.
“We now operate in a global marketplace and a global community, which is very different to the last generation and the one before.”