The first time my Dad taught me how to shear a sheep is a day I don’t want to remember.
… dragging it out of the pen … trying to hold it still … getting my head around how to grip the handpiece
The whole thing ended in a mess, and let’s just say that was the most unlucky sheep in the shed – to have me as its shearer that day!
I was 14, and I thought shearing a sheep would be easy. But instead, dad just laughed and invited me to have a go.
My confidence didn’t last long.
If there was a record for the slowest sheep shorn, I would have won (and I had probably left 80% of the wool on).
By the time I finished (at least an hour later), highly frustrated and very angry at the sheep, I vowed never to do it again. Dad laughed again as I walked off, sneering, ‘stupid handpiece, stupid shear, stupid idea.’
There is a skill to it – there is more to it than first meets the eye.
Making a profit is no different. It’s a skill.
It’s a skill that anyone can learn, and there are 3 phases to achieve what we call ‘Money Mastery.’
1. Base 2. Intermediary 3. Advanced
If you lack the skill, you can still make a profit – but like how I left 80% of the wool on the sheep that day, you could also be leaving 80% of the profit on the table. AND you could be more frustrated and stressed than you need to be.
Farm Owners Academy has an excellent Base, Intermediary, and Advanced money mastery checklist. If you can place a tick next to the 27 items on the list, you will be highly advanced and maximise your profit targets.
Andrew (Robbo) Roberts here. I helped co-found Farm Owners Academy with Greg Johnsson.
I’ve recently returned after 18 months off (I took some time out to deal with two little boys under 2). Here I am with my family – Oscar, me, Jamie and my wife Sonja (Sunny).
I will be sharing my experiences with you each week with a blog post, so please stick around as I want to add as much value to you as possible.
The focus of these posts is to help you realise the mission that sits behind Farm Owners Academy – which is helping you run a freedom farm.
A freedom farm is a highly profitable business that can work without you.
I feel I have a lot of experience in this area, as I have now built three companies that have achieved this.
But please note…I am still a student, still learning, and I am certainly not a know it all, but I do want to share some insights into how you can also create this for you and your family.
I love business.
For me, it’s a game (a very hard game to play).
I love the challenge of business, and I love the growth you can go through as a person. However, business really tests you and can knock your confidence if you are not careful, leading to excess stress and unhealthy patterns and behaviours (I’ve been there and done all of this).
But if you can master it, I believe you can really master your life.
Growing a great company gets you to look in the mirror and helps you look for ways to become a better person. And this is what drives me to keep coaching and helping you. It’s helping you become the person that you were born to be.
So I am going to start with my first tip.
A goal is simply a dream with a deadline.
If you want to run a freedom farm, the first thing you need to set is the date by which you want to achieve this goal.
It’s July 1, 2030, and our farm is running completely without me. We are profiting [insert your dream profit goal here], and I can comfortably take six months off to travel with my family [or you can change this part].
Have this written down, and stick it somewhere so you see it daily.
Don’t worry about how you will achieve this. You don’t need to know.
The goal is nothing but a stamp in the ground that now tells your brain you are on a journey to something great.
And notice how I have written this as though it has already happened? This is important.
You need to write down your goals as though you already have them. The more specific you are with your goal, the higher your chance of getting it.
Look out for the posts I will be sharing over the next few months.
We will be diving into the world of money and what holds you back from having all the wealth you ever thought was possible so you can live a happy and abundant life.
Thanks for being part of the Farm Owners community
Pretend you’ve made $500K in profit this year. You can…
Option A: Put it all in a savings account or FMD.
Option B: Use it all to pay down your loans, which have a 3% interest rate.
Option C: Invest it in the share market, that’s currently giving about 8% returns.
(NOTE: Of course, that 8% return isn’t guaranteed and there’s risk in the share market…but there’s also risk in the property market — which is what farming land is! Most of the risk in the share market is if your investment horizon is short-term. If you invest your money long-term, the risk is low and returns more dependable.)
Which option would you choose?
Let’s look at what each option would give you…
Option A: Put it in an FMD at 0.45% interest: makes you $2,250 p.a. Basically no benefit — that’s what we call “lazy” (note you will need to pay tax on this at some point).
Option B: Pay tax (assume 30% tax rate), pay down your loans (3% interest rate): paying $150K tax, paying off $350K of your loan saves you $10.5K. There’s a small benefit there, but still — pretty lazy.
Option C: Pay tax and invest it in the share market (yielding 8% returns): you pay $150K tax, earn $28K off that $350K investment. What could you use the extra $28K for? Just think about it!.
(Even if you don’t make 8% returns, you can invest in the share market in a way that will give you a stable dividend yield. Irrespective of what happens with the capital value of the shares, you still get the dividend and are still better off).
^^ Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
Do you see how in Option C, your money works for you?
That’s why we call it a “hardworking” strategy, rather than a “lazy” one.
3 investments to grow your wealth
If you’re running a Lazy Balance Sheet — with high profitability and low or no debt — your money could be better spent building your wealth in other ways.
When it comes to investments, we always advise our farm owners to start with these 3:
1. Expand your farming enterprise
If you have a profitable farm enterprise, it could be a great idea to reinvest your profits back in the business in order to grow it (and see higher profits as a result).
That’s a big question people have when they start thinking about investing.
Because yes, debt is cheap. But even at cheap rates, too much debt can still sink a business. So let’s talk about how to make sure you’re taking on debt in a safe, low-risk way.
Quick Disclaimer: What we’re about to share is for educational purposes only. It’s not personal professional advice; you should always consult a financial advisor for your specific situation.
But for the purposes of learning, here are two benchmarks that help you take on debt safely…
1. 80% equity (or greater)
The benchmark we like to use in the farming industry is to aim for an equity level of more than 80%.
That means you need to own 80% of your assets.
Having most of your assets owned gives you a certain level of security. But it also gives you some room to play, by leveraging that extra 20% to put into higher-yield investment opportunities to grow your wealth.
2. Finance Cover Ratio of (at least) 3
Your Finance Cover Ratio is a measure of how easily you’re able to cover your debts.
If, for example, the interest on your debts cost you $100k per year, we want to see your Net Profit covering those interest costs by at least 3x — meaning you’d need to see a Net Profit of at least $300K that year.
Net Profit = Total Revenue – Total Costs
As long as you’re making a Net Profit of at least $300K, you could take on debt that costs you $100K each year without much risk.
So before you use any profits on a new investment, always make sure:
You have a sustainable equity level
You can cover your interest payments by at least 3x each year
…Then you can invest in a safe way, giving you security and peace of mind.
How to turn your Lazy Balance Sheet into a Hardworking Balance Sheet
Now you’ve seen how the right kind of (safe) debt can actually be a good thing…and an incredible way to grow your wealth.
What do you do if you’re currently running a Lazy Balance Sheet, and have too high an equity level?
Enter: The Hardworking Balance Sheet.
On a Hardworking Balance Sheet, every dollar is being put TO WORK — either to keep your farming operation running and/or grow your wealth. No dollar sits unused.
Here are 3 things a Hardworking Balance Sheet will include:
Equity hovering around 80%
Net Profits that are 3x the amount of any interest payments on your debts/loans
Investment(s) that return a higher % than your loans cost you (see section above for our top 3 investment picks)
If your equity is higher than 80% and you’re ready to take on a bit of debt to grow your wealth, the next step is to have a chat with your bank and financial advisor.
As long as you’ve been paying off your loans, they’ll likely be able to offer you more money that you can start investing with. Just make sure you don’t go much below 80% equity across all your debts and that your Finance Cover Ratio stays above 3!
I hope today’s post helped you get out of the matrix of “always pay down debt first”…because that’s not necessarily the right default mode to have.
You don’t want to just be working hard for your money. You want your money working hard for you.
If you find that you’re storing all your money in savings accounts, FMDs, or under your mattress, you’re missing out on massive opportunities to grow your wealth.
Luckily, there are heaps of ways you can invest your money to create more money in a safe, low-risk way.
But the longer you wait, the longer you allow your balance sheet to be lazy, the less time you have to accumulate wealth. So take a look at your balance sheet today and brainstorm some ways you could turn it into a Hardworking Balance Sheet instead.
As always, we’re here to help! If this blog post piqued your interest and you want to learn more about building long-term wealth, let’s have a chat. Just send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll get it sorted.
Want to learn more about finance? Join our free training.
If you’re loving what you’re reading and want to learn even more about how to apply pro finance lessons to increase profits on your farm, join us for our upcoming free training.
We’ll simplify farm finance and give you plenty more ideas for how you can make more money (ie: reduce your inputs and increase your outputs) without working more hours.
An insider secret rich farm owners know that the rest of us don’t?
Focussing on cutting costs in your farm business is probably keeping you broke.
Okay, maybe its not keeping you broke-broke…but it’s very unlikely that it is making you rich.
It’s counter-intuitive, I know. And we’re not saying reducing costs is bad and to be avoided!
But focusing on this method over the long run is undoubtedly different than what rich farm business owners do.
When you understand this, you’ll shift your thinking to maximum profit rather than minimum cost!
Here’s an example to show you what I mean…
My friend’s farmdog had a nasty case of pancreatitis earlier this year. To save the dog’s life, the emergency vet put him on a strong dose of steroids.
The steroids did the trick and the dog’s health improved.
Now, those steroids saved the dog’s life, no question about it. But that medicine won’t help him achieve better long-term health. In fact, if he continued with steroids long-term, it would actually degrade his health, as the medicine has some nasty side effects.
It was a short-term fix, not a long-term one.
In order to live a long, full life, the dog needed a new healthy diet. My friend saw a different vet who specialised in nutrition to come up with a food plan that would keep her dog on the right path.
The two vets were equally qualified and equally important to the health of her dog…but they had different goals and methods.
The emergency vet focused on the short-term: saving the dog’s life. The nutrition vet focused on the long-term: maintaining good health for years and years.
Think of cutting costs like the emergency vet…
The goal is to save money this year but miss the opportunity that is in front for higher profits year on year.
Put another way: Your decisions to cut costs may save you $1 this year, only to cost you $10 in the long-run.
If you want to maximise profit, you need to shift your focus a bit…
The secret rich farm owners know (and average farm owners don’t)
If you want to build true wealth…
You’ve got to stop thinking like about cutting costs (a little windfall this year)…
And start thinking like a rich business owner (who aims for big wins over the long-term.)
The most successful farm owners know it’s better to increase revenue than cut costs.
They ask “How do I maximise profit?” rather than “How do I minimise cost?”
Put another way: “How can I use what I have to make more money in the long-term?” Vs. “How can I save a couple bucks this year?”
When you focus on increasing revenue, it can have a multiplying effect on your profits…and that effect doesn’t happen when you just reduce costs.
Here’s an example to show you how this works:
If you make $1.00 in income…
$0.30 of that income might go to your variable costs — things that increase/decrease depending on how much you produce, like labour, seed, animal health, etc.
$0.30 may be fixed or overhead costs — things you have to pay regardless of how much you produce, like plant and equipment, council rates, repairs and maintenance, etc.
…Leaving $0.40 (40% of your income) as profit
OPTION 1: If you reduce your fixed costs by 10%…
Your income remains $1.00
Your variable costs will stay the same ($0.30)
You’ll save 10% ($0.03) on fixed costs (new total: $0.27)
Now you’ll keep $0.43(43%) as profit
OPTION 2: If you increase your revenue by 10%…
Your income increases to $1.10
To achieve that 10% increase, your variable costs might have increased by 10% too (to $0.33)*
Your fixed costs likely stayed the same (still $0.30)
…Leaving $0.47 (47%) profit
See how that works?
You’ll keep $0.07 (70%) of that extra $0.10 income as profit…compared to only 40% profit that you made originally and 43% when you cut costs.
*NOTE: There are lots of examples where an increase in income can be achieved without an equivalent % increase in variable costs! Click here to find out how.
It doesn’t sound like much when we’re talking about $1. But when you multiply that out over a million dollars, it’s a fair bit.
The important takeaway: an increase in income doesn’t scale up proportionally! Your profit line grows quicker when you increase your revenue by a percentage than if you decrease your costs by a percentage.
That’s why rich farm owners focus on growing revenue, rather than cutting costs.
Don’t take our word for it that you’ll make more money by increasing revenue than decreasing costs.
Check out this study from the Wimmera region of Australia…
For croppers, the top 20% profitability farms have higher costs (blue bars)…but significantly higher income (black line):
And it gets even more interesting when you break it down further…
When you look at costs as a percentage of income — Total Farm Costs Ratio in the chart above — the top 20% farmers have much lower ratios than the average farmer (around 75% vs. 90%).
This may be counter intuitive as in the first graph we showed you that the top 20% businesses had higher costs but they have a lower cost ratio. Why is this happening?…Overall they are producing more output. They are using that slightly higher cost base to drive considerably more production which results in those costs being spread out over more units of production (or income).
What this means is that they have a lower cost of production (the cost per unit of output).
AND you can see their net profit ratio — which is profit/income — is also much, much higher.
So the best performers may spend a bit more…they have a lower cost of production…but they also make a lot more overall!
That’s why rich farm owners focus more on increasing revenue than decreasing costs. If you want to be a top producer, that’s what you should focus on as well.
The way that you start is by getting the right business model that delivers better profits.
The good news?
You’ve just completed your first big 3 finance lessons!
Most farm owners rely on what their parents taught them for advice on their business…and now you know when you should (and shouldn’t) heed their suggestions.
Most farm owners think cutting costs is the best strategy to keep more money in their pockets…and now you know that can cost you in the long run.
Most farm owners think decreasing expenses is the best way to grow profits…and now you’ve seen the math on why growing revenue is a more powerful strategy..
The #1 most important thing you can do as a farm owner is to know your financial numbers…better than your accountant does.
Not sure where to start?
We’ve got something to help you master your financial numbers to grow your profits…
FREE TRAINING: Learn The Fundamentals Of Farm Finance…And Pump Your Profits This Year
Join us for our free upcoming webinar to get a crash course in finance, so you can learn the basics of farm business finance.
As always, we’re here to help! If this blog post piqued your interest and you want to learn more about increasing your revenue on the farm, let’s have a chat. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get it sorted.
Getting angry and snapping at your partner, kids, or farmhand?
Suffering from headaches, stomachaches, or intestinal issues?
Generally not feeling a sense of purpose or accomplishment on the farm?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these, you may be in burnout, my friend.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many farmers come to Farm Owners Academy when they’re living in burnout, day in, day out.
Especially in the farming community, we value hard work. Maybe you were told that you needed to work 7 days a week, 12+ hours per day, so that’s what you’ve always done.
Maybe you think you have no choice if you want to be successful, that you simply have to work yourself to the bone to get ahead.
And maybe, the exhaustion and stress has become so normal that you don’t even know anything different.
That’s why it’s so important that we talk about burnout today. Because the truth is:
It’s not healthy to work this way
It’s costing you productivity and results, and
You can be successful without being constantly tired, stressed, and irritable (in fact, you’ll probably be much MORE successful when you get yourself out of burnout)
We consulted the big guns — Farm Owners Academy accountability coach Tracey Secombe, who works with our Platinum Mastermind members. And in today’s blog post, we’re sharing the symptoms of the 5 stages of burnout, to see if you’re in one of them.
And if you find that you are in burnout (most of us are!) we’ll share some steps you can take to reduce your stress levels and work from a much healthier place.
Our goal here at Farm Owners Academy is to help you create a Freedom Farm – that is to get better results in your farming business in less time and with less stress. (It’s completely possible — our Farm Owners Academy members have proven it.)
And it starts by taking care of the #1 asset on your farm: YOU. So let’s dive in…
The 5 Stages of Burnout
Stage 1: The Honeymoon Phase
You know when you start a new diet, exercise regime, or project and you feel excited for the challenge and committed to getting results? That’s the Honeymoon Phase.
This stage occurs before the real symptoms of burnout start.
Stage 1 is marked by high job satisfaction and commitment to the job at hand. You’ll also have high energy levels, good productivity, creativity, and optimism.
You may start to experience some light stress. But generally, you’re working from a high-energy, good-mood place.
The good news: Even if you’ve been running your farm 10, 20, or 30+ years, you can still get back into the Honeymoon Phase!
As time goes on, some days feel more difficult than others.
Some days are still exciting but others aren’t.
You may start to lose enthusiasm and momentum as tasks and projects don’t go as smoothly as you expect.
And you may find your optimism waning and notice stress affecting you physically, mentally, or emotionally.
That’s when you’ve moved from the Honeymoon Phase to Stage 2: the Onset of Stress.
The symptoms of Stage 2 of burnout appear at three levels:
Physical symptoms: fatigue, grinding your teeth at night, headaches, high blood pressure, lack of quality sleep, unusual heart rhythms or palpitations
Emotional symptoms: anxiety, forgetfulness, inability to focus, irritability, job dissatisfaction
Behavioural symptoms: avoidance of decision-making, change in appetite/diet, general neglect of personal needs (eating well, exercising, taking care of yourself), lack of social interaction, lower productivity
Those symptoms sound pretty common, right? Most of us have been in Stage 2 at some point.
Sometimes, work is just a bit more stressful than usual — it happens to all of us.
Stage 2 can still be a healthy place if you use coping strategies to manage the stress without letting it overcome you. (Keep reading for specific stress management suggestions below).
Stage 3: Chronic Stress
If you’ve been putting up with Stage 2 for a while, it often progresses to Stage 3: Chronic Stress.
You’ll notice a marked change in stress levels and may experience more intense symptoms than Stage 2.
Stage 3 symptoms include everything in Stage 2, PLUS:
Physical symptoms: deep exhaustion, persistent tiredness (more than just low energy), physical illness, odd ailments
Emotional symptoms: anger, aggressive behavior, apathy (“I don’t even care”), cynical attitude, resentfulness, feeling threatened, panicked, or out of control
Behavioural symptoms: decreased sexual desire, denial of problems at work or home, increased alcohol/drug use, increased caffeine consumption, lack of hobbies, missed work deadlines/targets, procrastination, social withdrawal, uptake of escapist activities (watching TV, scrolling social media, anything to “switch off” and avoid reality).
Many of us have been in Stage 3 before. So if you feel like that’s you, there are things you can do to turn it around.
It’s important to implement some coping strategies here to support your wellbeing and prevent you from moving into a further stage of burnout. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
Cut yourself some slack. Accept that you’re feeling overwhelmed, and that’s okay. Almost all farmers and business owners have felt this way. All you can do is your best, so try to have realistic expectations…and not feel pressured to achieve superhuman results overnight.
Take care of yourself. You know the drill! Drink enough water. Eat quality foods. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Spend time doing things you love, with people you love. Take deep breaths and engage in a mindfulness practice like meditation. These things are often overlooked but can make the biggest difference!
Focus on the lessons, not the losses. You’re always growing and changing as a business owner. There’s no such thing as failure, remember. Every so-called “loss” is a lesson that will help you do better next time. Embracing “failure” as a natural part of the road to success can help you feel less stressed when things don’t go perfectly.
Do what you can to reduce your stress levels. Maybe it’s hiring a farmhand. Re-organising your business to take some things off your plate. Working with a coach. (Farm Owners Academy can help!) Ideally, you want to move back down to Stage 2, where you feel some stress but it doesn’t overwhelm you. Think of what will help YOU (because everyone’s different) take your stress levels down a notch or two so they feel more manageable.
Stage 4: Burnout
This is when you cross the threshold from stress into burnout itself.
Burnout is the result of chronic, long-term stress. And it’s much more than feeling overwhelmed.
It’s a constant state of exhaustion and it becomes increasingly difficult to cope. Continuing as normal is often not possible and many people have some sort of breakdown when they’re in burnout.
Here are the symptoms of Burnout:
Physical symptoms: chronic headaches, chronic stomach or bowel problems, physical symptoms/illnesses that have intensified or increased
Emotional symptoms: desire to “drop out” of society, desire to move away from work or family/friends, feeling empty inside, pessimistic outlook on work and life, extreme self-doubt
Behavioural symptoms: complete neglect of personal needs, increase in escapist activities, obsession over problems at work or in life, social isolation, working all the time and have no balance in your life
Steps to Recover from Burnout Without Progressing to Stage 5
If you recognise that you’re in Stage 4, it’s important to take steps to recover NOW.
You must make it a priority to reduce your stress and feel better; it’ll only get harder the more you progress.
There will ALWAYS be more to do on the farm. And there will never be someone forcing you to prioritise yourself and fix your burnout situation — only you can do that.
Luckily, there are simple things you can start TODAY to prioritise your well-being. Here’s a list of the best things you can do now to treat your burnout before it gets worse:
DO LESS: Prioritise your to-do list
A lot of the time, the reason we’re burning out is we’re saying “yes” to too many things, rather than being really clear about what our priorities are. We call this “hitting the ceiling” because you’ve reached capacity and need to do less to recover.
This is the beauty of making a quarterly plan because it tells you what’s most important to focus on. A quarterly plan makes it easy to say “no” or “later” to anything that doesn’t support your goals for the quarter.
It’s also helpful to create a STOP-doing list. This is often more powerful than a to-do list!
To create your stop-doing list, look at your schedule and audit the activities on your weekly list, by asking yourself:
Why am I doing this task?
Will it really benefit me to do this? (Does it really need to be done?)
Am I the person who should be doing this? (For example, maybe your kids can make lunches or a farmhand can drive the tractor).
Can I do this later?
You’re bound to find tasks that you don’t really need to do right now. Add these to your stop-doing list! Freeing up space in your schedule is step 1 to feel less burnt out.
This sounds so simple but is absolutely vital to recover from burnout! Prioritise your sleep.
That means going to bed at a good time, especially if you wake up really early. If you struggle to unwind at night, try some deep breathing exercises or meditation before bed. (See next section.)
Pay attention to your own rhythms. Different people have different sleep needs. Just because your wife or your dad only need 5 hours to function well doesn’t mean you do! Start by aiming for 8 hours of sleep each night and notice how you feel. Adjust from there to find your ideal amount.
Calm your mind
I know meditation and deep breathing exercises might feel fluffy to you. But don’t knock it until you try it! They’re powerful, proven strategies to overcome burnout.
You can reset your stress levels by pausing and breathing intentionally, even just for a minute. By taking slow, rhythmic breaths, you “speak” to your brain and tell it you’re okay. It’s scientifically proven to de-stress your body. (Harvard Medical School even agrees!)
Here’s a simple breathing exercise:
Breathe in for a count of 4, then breathe out for a count of 8.
Easy, right? Anyone can do it. The next time you’re feeling stressed, try it for a minute or so…you’ll be amazed how just a few deep breaths can instantly calm you down and make you feel less stressed.
Meditation is also a great strategy to quiet your thoughts. Feeling exhausted is linked to being disconnected. When we’re aligned, tuned in, and relaxed, we feel good and in control of our lives.
You can release so much stress and anxiety through moving your body. So don’t overlook the importance of exercise not just for your physical health, but for your mental and emotional health as well.
We often think high intensity is the best way to release stress, but it can actually increase your stress levels. So aim for moderate activities instead. Walking at a brisk pace is a great exercise that will naturally release stress.
Try a variety of exercise: walking, playing sport, swimming, yoga, stretching, weight training — and see which one(s) helps you feel your best.
Eat (and drink) well
Poor hydration is linked to exhaustion. So make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. For women living in a temperate climate you need about 2.7L per day, and for men about 3.7L per day. Approximately 20% of this comes from what you eat, the rest needs to come from fluids. If you are doing exercise or physical work the requirements increase.
Give it a try for a week — bet you’ll notice a positive change in your energy levels and mood when you’re fully hydrated.
When it comes to food, start by eating when you’re hungry. You’re better off following your own hunger cues than sticking to a regimented breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule. Your needs may differ depending on the day.
You know how to eat healthy, right? We don’t need to go into the details. Add more whole foods, vegetables, and fruits to your plate and take away some sugar and processed stuff. High sugar causes a blood sugar spike and drop, which leaves you feeling exhausted.
Accountability coach Tracy specifically suggests that adding more alkaline foods into your diet helps with burnout. (You can Google this to find out what they are). Alkaline foods are excellent for nourishing the body and helping to reduce stress.
It’s also great to have some go-to healthy snacks ready when hunger strikes so you don’t grab something that will make you feel crap an hour later. A few examples:
apple and peanut butter
cucumber with cream cheese
crackers and hummus
a handful of nuts
These snacks will keep you fueled without the energy crash of sugary sweets.
Spend time with hobbies / passions
The farming community is so work-focused. But life’s too short not to do things just for you, too.
That’s why spending some time doing things you love is a great treatment for burnout.
Even 5 minutes a day of something you enjoy can make a difference. That could be:
Building model trains
Listening to music
Riding bikes with your kids
Lighting a bon fire and spending time with friends or family
Make time for activities you enjoy, even if it’s only a short amount of time. Tapping into this sense of passion will increase your energy and mood, and make you more resilient to handle the stress of work.
Stage 5: Habitual Burnout
If you don’t address the symptoms of burnout at Stage 4, it can progress to Stage 5.
This is when burnout becomes so normal in your life that you experience significant ongoing mental, physical or emotional problems.
Stage 5 happens in farming all too often because our community has such a strong work ethic. It often crosses over into unhealthy territory and pushes farm owners to the brink.
Habitual Burnout is when burnout has become very severe, and includes additional symptoms of:
^^ This is a countdown to the day you hang up your Akubra for the last time and head to the great farm in the sky.
Okay, maybe not the exact day.
But the reality is, all of us have a countdown timer like this…we just don’t spend much time looking at it.
Forgive us for being so blunt here…
But one day, you will die, and your farm WILL pass into new hands.
The question is:
Will you be ready?
Most farm owners avoid thinking about succession planning until it’s too late. They (understandably) don’t want to think about death or retirement so they put it off.
And as a result, the succession plan never truly gets sorted out, resulting in all kinds of headaches…
Kids left to untangle complicated finances that add so much stress to their lives.
People feel cheated out of what they feel is fair. Maybe one family member spent years on the farm, toiling away to build up the business, only to have their other siblings take a big share of it because there’s no real plan in place.
Sometimes family members stop speaking to each other altogether, tearing the family apart with no reconciliation in sight.
That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about succession planning NOW, even if you don’t think you need to yet.
And that’s what today’s blog post is all about. You just need to answer four simple questions to start a smooth succession process.
These 4 questions will help you even if:
You’re decades away from retirement
Your farm is a financial disaster right now
You have conflicting personalities within your family
You have no idea where to start with succession planning
You were handed a mess of a farm and your parents made huge mistakes with succession
There’s that old saying: “Only two things are certain in life: death and taxes.”
So let’s normalise this for a minute and get real about what will happen after you leave the farm, okay?
We promise, it’s easier than you think to get started. And your family will be unspeakably grateful you put the time into this now to keep things stress-free in the future.
4 questions to make succession planning simple
1. What is your ideal outcome?
The first step is to get clear and specific about the best outcome you can imagine.
Even if your dream feels very far from your current reality, that’s okay. Just think about the situation that would make you happy to hand over your farm.
A few things to consider:
How much money do you need to retire?
At what age do you want to retire?
Who will take over operations on the farm?
Will your kids split the farm equally? What is the percentage breakdown? How much money do you need outside the farm business to make this equitable?
Will just one of the kids take over the farm, with the others inheriting something else?
Will the farm be sold, so the family can split the money from the sale?
You want to ask all affected parties what their ideal outcome is, too. Don’t assume you know what your kids want!
Too often, we see kids who don’t get what they want when their parents pass away. Either they secretly want to be part of the farm and are left out of the farm’s succession plan…or they secretly want to leave the farm and end up being responsible a farming business they aren’t passionate about.
That’s why you need to ask anyone affected by succession what their ideal outcome would be. You may not be able to give everybody exactly what they want (and that’s okay) but it’s important to at least know what people want.
2. What does your current situation look like?
Next, it’s time to get realistic by looking at your farm’s numbers. Understanding your financial picture is an important step in smooth succession planning.
Get clear on the key financial figures of your farm, such as:
What assets do you have?
What are your fixed and operating costs?
How much profit does the business make each year, on average?
If there isn’t any profit, what can you do about it?
What is the current net worth of the farming business?
What kind of salary are you paying yourself now?
How much money do you have in any retirement accounts (or other assets or accounts that can
be sold to fund your retirement?)
If you’re not a finance guy, don’t worry. We’ve got a free cheat sheet on the 10 financial ratios you need to know for your farming business.
(We’ll also be sharing a heap of free education over the coming weeks to help you feel more in control of your finances. Click here to sign up for email updates to get these free tips delivered straight to your inbox.)
3. How can you bridge the gap?
So. You know where you’re starting from and where you want to go.
The next step is to make a plan to get from here to your ideal outcome.
This is where you make your PLAN.
This doesn’t have to be a one-year, five-year, or even ten-year plan. It can be 30 years in the future, if that’s when you’ll be handing things over!
It’s important to keep an open mindset while you’re creating your plan. If you catch yourself saying, “I’ll never be able to do that”…stop! Instead, get curious and say, “I may not be able to achieve everything I want. But how can I get as close to that ideal picture as possible?”
Make sure to consider ALL your options here. It’s empowering to have a variety of choices, rather than feeling stuck with just one.
For example, let’s say your farming business is in dire straits…
One option is to spend the next 20 years getting the farming business to run like clockwork, so it’s ready to sell or hand over to your kids when you retire.
Another option is hiring staff to manage the farm for you. Our clients Cheryl and Tim are doing exactly this and it’s working out great for them. Check out their story below:
A third option is to sell everything tomorrow. You could take some money for retirement and then hand over a traditional inheritance to your kids. That may be the best option for everybody involved, especially if your kids don’t want to take over the farm or if you’re not interested in working on the business side.
This comes back to Step 1 and understanding whether your kids would rather have the farming business or have the money and freedom to walk away. They’ll appreciate having a choice rather than being handed something they may not want.
4. Have I communicated any updates with all affected parties?
This is a bonus step. Make sure to keep communication open continually.
It starts with one conversation asking people what their ideal outcomes are.
It continues by sharing financial information, keeping people in the loop of how the farm is doing as things grow and change.
It expands as you share your succession plan once you make it, so people know what to expect.
Ongoing communication is THE #1 most important part of the whole succession planning process. You can avoid so much frustration, resentment, and stress by keeping communication open with your family.
Even if not everybody gets what they want in the succession plan (you can’t always please everyone), they’ll respect how it happened because expectations were clear and spoken about in advance.
If you take nothing else away from this blog post, please let it be this:
Don’t wait. Start thinking — and talking — about succession NOW. It is the responsibility of the current owners to make sure this is done properly.
Start simply by asking your kids (and/or other people affected by succession) what their ideal outcome would be.
You don’t have to tell them whether their ideal outcome is possible. You just have to have an honest chat about what would be best for them.
Once you’ve got that, you’ve already made a good start on Question 1 above!
Remember, the best way to cure the succession issue is to give yourself enough time to create the succession you want. Start today.