Growing a lasting family business

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Growing a lasting family business


Succession planning is an issue that is regularly discussed by growers and the wider horticulture sector, however, it continues to take a backseat when it comes to family discussions.

Thinking about handing the business to the next generation can be a sensitive topic and uncomfortable to deal with due to emotional factors, family dynamics and financial implications.

Unfortunately, many growers leave it too late and have to deal with succession in a reactive and ad-hoc way. This can lead to limited exit options and outcomes that are not in the best interests of the owner or their family, including damaging relationships and having a negative impact on returns.

Succession planning is not a one-off task but rather a continuous and evolving process. There is no set playbook to be followed with business objectives, future plans, legacy goals and family values all playing a role in determining how it is developed.

For some growers, the best course may mean making a different choice and bringing in leadership from outside the family to run the business or selling to someone else. This approach also requires careful planning to ensure the farm has the best chance of success.

A detailed succession plan with flexibility, effective communication and transparency should be a priority for all family growing operations.

 One issue that is common for grower-owned businesses, is that it is often the owner who holds the key knowledge and relationships. This is a significant risk for a business, especially in events such as sudden illness or death. Succession is also about transferring roles and responsibilities. You should start by detailing how the business looks now, along with who does what task and ensuring it is clearly understood by your family and your employees.

While it may appear to be a daunting task, planning should start as early as possible. Succession planning is one area where your leverage tends to diminish over time.

Consider what help you may need and think about setting target dates for transition, even if it is well into the future. Getting the process started now will reduce short-term worry and avoid challenges in the future.

I’m sure all growers want to make sure their business is successful when they step away. After all, there’s a lot at stake, including the value created on the back of years of effort along with the future of your employees, your community and others connected to your business.


Peter Hendry 


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