While there could be many more “parts” to the list of topics that would fall under “Managed Risk,” I’ll
end it this week with one that I believe many people, maybe all people, face each day.
The list of reasons (excuses) we provide to support our decision not to act is virtually endless. They can
be found in the 7 Deadly Sins (pride, envy, sloth) or in almost any self-help book (communication issues,
inequality, stress) or even from psychological therapy (apathy, self-esteem issues, narcissism.)
Here are a few of the most monumental farm issues that are affected by inaction:
I recently took a call from a young man looking for guidance on how to manage the complexity of his
current farm arrangement. He farms with his dad and his brother; all three men have their own
corporation and their own land; one brother farms full time with the dad, the other is part time with offfarm
work. Tracking financial contributions and division of labor are a nightmare, and yet both look like
a cakewalk compared to managing “whose inventory is whose?” They are not happy with the increased
efforts needed to deal with these issues, they all know that there is likely a better way, but no one has
taken a step until the day I spoke with one of the brothers.
In this case, the inaction stems from unawareness: none of the men involved in this family farm had the
knowledge of what, if any, options were available, what questions to ask, or who to even ask for help.
It’s also common for inaction to stem from fear – fear of appearing incompetent by asking a “dumb
question,” fear of making the wrong decision, fear of rocking the boat and hurting the family dynamic.
Family issues challenge most intergenerational farms. There are many varieties, and most are worthy of
a book being written on the topic. Elaine Froese wrote Farming’s In-Law Factor. There should be books
written on “How to Fire Your Father” and “Decoding Motivation: How to Translate Boomers, Gen X’ers,
and Millennials.” If only…
The most common reason for inaction on family issues is “I don’t want to blow up the farm.” The
problem is that inaction can blow up the farm with greater odds than if action was taken! Unless the
family member you’re dealing with has truly sinister motivations, the likelihood of a successful dialogue
is quite positive. No one wants to destroy the farm or the family, so with the appropriate approach,
success can be had. The inaction for family issues predominantly stems from fear. Coaching is available
to help families deal with these types of issues.
Considering the average age of a Canadian prairie farmer today, the volume of farm transitions to take
place over the next 10 years is staggering. The cumulative value of assets that will change ownership
would dwarf the GDP of some small nations. With so much at stake, why does every farm not have a
succession plan already in place (or at least in progress?)
Inaction on this front increases the risk of the following:
- Future family fighting
- Colossal tax obligations
- Destroy the farm business
- Your legacy lost
Excuses (reasons) for inaction here are unacceptable. It is nothing short of reckless and irresponsible to
leave undone a function with such enormous impact. There is no shame in not having all the answers, or
any answers for that matter. Farm transition is a process, not a result. The process becomes a path of
discovery, but if you insist on keeping your blinders on, don’t be surprised to one day deal with any or all
of the 4 bullet points above.
What is your main reason for inaction? “No Time” is an excuse. “Fear” is a real reason, but only you can
What have your accountant and lawyer provided you for advice regarding your future transfer (sale) of
In a family business, inaction increases the probability of irreparable family dysfunction. What is getting
higher priority: family harmony or fear of perceived conflict?
From the Home Quarter
What must happen to make an issue a priority? Is it an immediate tangible loss/damage, like an
equipment breakdown in season? Is it emotional goal, like a new pickup truck? Is it perceived (assumed)
risk, like assuming your employee will quit unless he’s granted a wage increase?
Making an issue a priority is the best way to beat the risk of inaction. The fear of the perceived
outcomes or the fear of not knowing how to proceed gives us permission to keep urgent issues down
low on the priority list. But at what point does reality and rational reasoning take over so that we
recognize that the risk of inaction has more negative potential than that of any perceived outcome?
In retrospect, “inaction” is not so much a managed risk, but an unmanaged risk. Managing our
“inaction” actually reduces, or even eliminates, the risk.
If you struggle with inaction…
For a no charge consultation on where you are best to replace “fear” with “priority,” please call or email