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Family Business Matters       06/26 12:46

   Your Next Financial Leader

   Don't overlook this key management position.

Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   Succession planning in the family business often focuses on the operational 
leader -- the person directing outside activities or making decisions about 
logistics, labor, planting or harvesting. The theory is that when something 
happens to the leader, without an immediate takeover by a competent 
replacement, the business will struggle with indecision and suffer from 
mistakes.

   While the operational leader undoubtedly plays a key role, an often 
overlooked person is the one who does the bookkeeping, pays employees and 
vendors, balances financial accounts and prepares information for the tax plan. 
The person who knows where the money is -- and can keep the money flowing -- is 
just as important as the person calling the shots in the field or pasture. In 
some cases, that person may be more important than the leader in the field. 
Following are the reasons why.

   UNIQUE FINANCIAL DYNAMICS

   Most farming and ranching operations conduct very similar activities. The 
timing and tactics of how you farm may vary slightly, but generally speaking, 
the fieldwork, application of inputs, planting, agronomic analysis and 
harvesting in a given region are functions that are relatively similar to those 
around you.

   The multitude of competitive renters, farm managers, custom farmers, 
agronomy consultants and even crop marketing services suggests many functions 
can be outsourced. And, while it may not produce the exact results you want, 
engaging the right people can get you through a period of time in the absence 
of an operational successor.

   But the financial profile of each farm or ranch can vary widely from 
neighbor to neighbor. Debt levels and equity growth, farm expenses, equipment 
and infrastructure investments, personal living costs, savings strategies, 
off-farm investments, support of children or charities, and tax strategies are 
all unique to your business. And the person who knows the most about all of 
those dynamics is the person who enters or reviews your financial transactions. 
They know where the money goes and are exceptionally important to your 
organization.

   LOW MARGIN MANAGEMENT

   In times when financial margins are extremely thin, the person in your 
business who understands where every dollar goes is critical to your survival. 
That person has the insight to guide your decision-making around purchases of 
inputs and sales of product.

   On today's farm and ranch, financial decisions happen every day, but without 
a good finance and accounting succession plan, getting someone else up to speed 
on your books will take time. The absence of good financial information for 
farm decisions is like flying an airplane through bad weather without 
instruments -- risky and quite possibly fatal.

   TIMELINE IN A CRISIS

   The COVID-19 pandemic, state lockdowns and the ensuing financial programs 
offered by the government came about relatively quickly. As of this writing, 
many farms that applied for the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program 
benefited from quick action in filling out and submitting the application, 
which required calculations of payroll expenses.

   In some cases, your competitive advantage and ability to move quickly may be 
determined by the organization of, and access to, your business information, 
along with a deep knowledge of the financial structure and intricacies of your 
business. While you hunt for the details without the help of your finance 
manager, you may miss out on substantial business opportunities.

   Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 
415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email lance.woodbury@kcoe.com.




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