By: Dan Doll, Director, Alberta Canola
By using some poetic license on Dickens famous line: “ It could be the best of times, it could be the worst of times,” you come up with the overall theme of the Alberta Canola event: Leading Edge Farm Management Conference recently held in Red Deer. Farmer retirement and farm transitioning are difficult tasks that all farmers eventually face; these are constants in an ever changing world, just like: “ death and taxes”. BUT, this process does not have to be the daunting task that most people envision. Alberta Canola put an excellent program together and brought in extremely knowledgeable speakers, which enforced the idea that with a well defined set of goals, a strong plan, a timeline for implementation, and sound professional advice, succession planning may actually be, an enjoyable, fulfilling, end of (full time farming) experience.
Keynote speaker, David Irvine focused his extremely moving presentation on the human and interpersonal nuances of successful succession planning. He focused his talk on five pillars of a successful business and a successful succession plan. In order for either of these to succeed, the following points must be in place between all the players involved:
- All parties must respect each other and work together in a state of goodwill.
- Trust must exist between all players.
- Open, honest communication is a must.
- A written plan with timelines is essential.
- Professional help from lawyers, accountants and succession planning strategists is a must to get all the nuts and bolts correct.
Merle Good, a well known farm management consultant, Dean Gallimore, a chartered accountant with a wealth of experience, and Rob Strilchuk a long time tax adviser, covered the nuts and bolts and the many options that are available for a successful transition plan. The good natured bantering between them as to what would work, was it legal, how is the accounting done and how would Revenue Canada view it, provided some humour, and stimulation in a serious, but often dry subject area. They proved that not all consultants and accountants are boring.
Lawyer Tracy Hanson has been practicing law in the area of agribusiness for many years and just like professional athletes, all that practice has really made her a good lawyer. Her presentations focused on the need for written legal documentation of all aspects of a succession plan, and a well written will. She emphasized that wills are only part of a succession plan and not a substitute for them. Tracy also kept Merle, Rob, and Dean in check as to whether any of their strategies could possibly land them or their clients offside in the view of Revenue Canada.
Rob Hall a professional banker outlined the need to keep open, frank dialogue between borrower and lender. He emphasized that the bank is a business, so its policies are not always in the best interest of your business. He stressed the need for frequent meetings with your lenders and not be scared to shop your business around to other lenders.
Heather Watson from Farm Management Canada, gave an enlightening presentation on the seven main management practices that are common to almost all successful farms; these same practices can also be used in successful estate planning. Her final zinger was that successful managers commit to the concept of life long learning. You are never too old or too smart to stop learning.
All of the conference speakers emphasized the need to complete your farm succession plan while you are still looking at the right side of the grass. To stick your head in the sand and leave this to someone else is an irresponsible approach and can cause added stress and heart ache to your family and associates left behind.
As one of the senior citizens at Alberta Canola this workshop was probably more timely for me than some of the younger participants, but I stress the need to at least start thinking about these things. Giving yourself time helps lessen the task. This workshop is a great starting point and a good refresher to those that have already started the process.
There was lots of information to take in for an old guy with a creaky, slow hard-drive, but it was a very enjoyable event. Don’t miss it when it comes around again. I may go again because I may not remember if I was there!!!
Alberta Canola Connects is your window into the activities of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission as we work both locally and globally to help contribute to the long term success of canola farmers in Alberta.