Countryside Matters 2014 - page 48-49

Countryside
Matters
46
Countryside
Matters
47
Modernagriculture isdominatedby lotsoffamilybusinesses,whichhaveoften
beenpasseddownmanytimeswithinthesamefamily.Youcaneasilyfindfarms
thathavebeen inthesamefamilysincethe1800s.Thesefamiliesreallyhavea
commitmenttothatplace, theyreallyhaverootsthere ineverysense,andthe
past laboursoffamilymembersare literallywritten intothe landscape.
Butthiscontinuitycanbeadouble-edgedswordwhen itcomestothehealth
of their business. Farmers, whose entire identity is wrapped up in being a
custodianoftheirpatchof land,oftenfind ithardtopassonanyresponsibility
tothenextgenerationuntil theyare intheirdotage.
Iremember20yearsago,interviewingafarmerinhis50s.Therewasaquestion
onfinanceswhichwas; “couldyou tellme roughly, in thepast yearwhat the
turnoverofthefarmwas?”Theanswerwas“no–I’mveryhappytotellyou,but
Idon’tknow,because fatherkeepsthechequebooksandall theaccountsand
I’veneverseenthem”. ThiswasanimportantmomentformebecauseIrealised
that the farmerwas running thebusinesswithonehand tiedbehindhisback
duetotheunwillingnessofhisfathertohandoverthereins.
Thisstillhappenstoday.Somefarmersaresometimeslittlemorethanglorified
labourers,whooftenworklonghoursforlittleremuneration.Theydon’thavea
particularlydecent levelofhousingand it isallonapromisefromtheparental
generationthat ‘onedaythisfarmwillbeyours’.Thismeansthattheson(and
itusually isason; thevastmajorityoffarmers I’ve interviewedneverseemto
consider passingon themanagement of the farm to their daughters) isnot
allowedanypropersay inrunningthefarmuntilhehimself iswell intomiddle
age–oftenonlywhen the inevitablehappensand the fatherdies.By then, it
ismuchtoo lateforthesontorejuvenatethebusiness,becausehe isstarting
towinddownhimself.
RURAL FAMILY BUSINESS
RURAL FAMILY BUSINESS
Keeping it
in the family
by
DrMattLobley
Co-DirectorofCentre for
RuralPolicyResearch,
UniversityofExeter
Finding farms in theUK thathavebeen in thesame familysince the1800s isnot
uncommon.Butas theypass fromgeneration togeneration, canbusinesses really
grow?Long termplanningandhonest conversationsareessential if
abusiness is tosucceed.
It is important for the growth of the business that it is passed down the
generations in a planned and timely manner. Succession can provide a
powerfulmotivationforexpansionand investment inthebusinessbutforthis
toworkboth the succeedingandoutgoinggenerationsneed tobe involved
inplanning for the futureof thebusiness.Andwearecurrentlyworkingwith
worldclassbusinessschool IMD inLausanne,SwitzerlandandClintonDevon
Estates tohelp family farmsandother rural familybusinesses inDevonand
Somersetdo justthat.
The pilot Family Business Growth Programme, running until April 2014, is
beingfundedbytheGovernmentaspartoffiveRuralGrowthNetworksacross
England, aimed at growing the rural economy. We are training a group of
professionaladvisorswhowillgooutandhelpfamiliesrunningruralbusinesses
acrossthesetwoveryruralcountiesthinkaboutsuccessionplanning,putting
inplaceafamilybusinessconstitutionandretirementplanning.
MattLobleyhas
beenresearching
family farming for24
yearsandhisbook,
‘Keeping it inthe
Family’shows just
how important family
farmsaretotherural
economy,societyand
environment.
“Wedonot inherit the familybusiness fromourparents;
weborrow it fromour children.”
HERMESOFPARIS
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