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Succession in a family business is hard work – perhaps harder than the normal, daily work required to run the business itself.  Transferring the senior generation’s years of experience and knowledge, and developing skills and strengths in the next generation, all while managing the emotional dynamics of family members working together, is flat-out overwhelming. Add to that the transfer of ownership among on and off-farm heirs, the consolidation of the industry, and the current economic climate, and more than a few families wonder if the effort is worth the reward.

For those who choose to continue the business legacy through engaging in succession planning, technology offers a host of compelling benefits, both from a business management standpoint, and family dynamics. I’ve listed a few for your consideration:
1. Modeling business scenarios as a way to objectively evaluate decisions. With all of the systems that capture data, it is becoming easier to take last season’s financial, market, agronomic, labor and weather data to create models, budgets and scenarios of how future years might look. While agriculture is an unpredictable endeavor, you can more easily evaluate potential future outcomes, and begin to add a sense of certainty and objectivity into the planning process. This also offers a glimpse into how different generations might try to solve problems or take advantage of opportunities, leading ultimately to greater confidence and a sense of direction in the business transition process.
2. Analyzing data to understand the factors that really drive performance. In prior decades, knowledge of what drives performance was often handed down from prior generations as a set of guidelines or best practices. But with software like Granular, the data generated and collected helps to institutionalize – and even sometimes refute – knowledge handed down from parents and grandparents. Analyzing the data together formalizes and furthers the goal of transmitting knowledge from the senior generation’s head into the minds of future generations.
3. Communicating across geographies to keep people on the same page and gather input. When you consider the people who have an interest in your farm, the numbers add up quickly. Family members, employees, land owners, vendors, and advisors all have an interest in knowing what’s going on on your farm. Through constantly evolving communication and reporting platforms, it becomes easier to share news, financial information, crop progress and even instructions. A robust communication process leads to a more seamless transfer of knowledge between parties, which in turn smoothes the succession process.
In the world of family business succession and planning, to “facilitate” means “to make easier.” Technology, while not always easy to adopt at the beginning (and change the behaviors that go with said successful adoption), can be a tremendous facilitator once implemented. Consider how you might be able to take advantage of new technologies to advance succession in your ag family business.

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Old habits die hard. Sometimes they don’t ever die, even if they come at an obvious cost. Author Douglas Adams wrote three principles about new technologies that could fit most farm CEO’s looking into new management technologies for farm operations:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.
It is second nature for a young farmer to check feeds, texts, and instant chats, wherever they are, at all times, and on all devices. The generation prior to him is now slowly adapting to mobile and web technology. And the generation behind that one is unlikely to be engaged with software technology at all. And yet all three generations are often working together on the family farm. They need to agree on how to get things done, what works, and what doesn’t.
The benefits of precision agriculture and data management systems are widely agreed upon. But beyond the subjective concerns about data privacy, cost, and operational fit, the generational gap in terms of technology adoption on and off the farm remains a significant barrier to the broad use of these management advancements. We often talk to young farmers about Granular who say “I love this, I can see our team using this every day, but my dad is set in his ways. He still has a flip phone.” Here’s what we found works:
1. Pair older and younger. Ask a younger tech-savvy (and patient) operator to serve as a guide for older farm personnel. They will be the most effective at navigating the software and showing how it can solve every-day issues in a fraction of the time it took before. This comfort and knowledge is contagious, and transmitted faster than you’d expect.
2. Let the technology speak for itself. Part of building comfort with technology is being able to see how it is “worth it” from the start. As soon as possible, produce reports, analysis, and summary records that quantify the benefits. Show how the technology offers more than just data-in/data-out quickly after a couple of uses.
3. Expect criticism. The choice to use an unfamiliar software solution will likely draw fire at the start, especially when it is replacing an established pattern of communication and working. Anticipate critiques, and use your software support team to actively address concerns and complaints.
4. Look long-term. Most advances in management take a year or more to embed into the fabric of the farm operation. One production cycle will show results; two production cycles will show dramatic returns if the software is being used correctly. Explain to the senior generation that their role in the business will remain consistent while new tools are put to work (and probably even after – they’ll just be better at it). Chances are, they went through the same transformations themselves.
5. Position software as a basis for farm succession. Information and records need to evolve as the farm moves steadily into the future. In a changing world, data management can help improve business decisions that have to be made quicker with less certainty by unlocking institutional knowledge.
Technology on the farm is not a threat to legacy. It is the best way to strengthen and keep that legacy.

Latest

How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Company News

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Industry Insights

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

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Events

Grow 2018

Granular's Annual Customer CEO Summit

March 21-33, 2018

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA

All Posts

Show All (50)
Industry Insights (6)
Granular Suite (12)
AcreValue (12)
Company News (1)
Specialty Crop (4)

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

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