Preserving the Ranch

Family business consultant offers tips to successful succession planning.

Dave Specht

Dave Specht

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 4, 2014) — Succession planning is certainly not easy, but open communication will make it easier. Dave Specht, certified financial planner and owner of Advising Generations LLC, gave some tips on making the transition smoother during the business block workshops at the Angus Means Business National Convention & Trade Show in Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 4-6, 2014.

He shared seven themes that help measure perceptions and manage expectations for all involved in an estate transfer.

Theme 1: Business/estate planning — “The best succession plan is not the one that minimizes the most taxes, the best is one that minimizes the most surprises,” Specht said. There should be a coordinated effort between the professionals on your team — banker, certified public accountant (CPA), insurance professional, investment advisor. Is the plan documented and does it take into consideration the perspectives of all generations? Estate plans should not be made in secret.

Theme 2: Communication — All family members should be able to discuss what the farm means to them without creating conflict. Sometimes an independent mediator can help facilitate discussion, he said. Do all generations have a voice in strategic decisions for the ranch?

Theme 3: Leadership development — Is there an entrance strategy for the next generation of family members who want to come back to the farm or ranch? He recommended letting the younger generation make as many decisions as possible while the older generation is still around to help if mistakes are made. Don’t let the first decisions they make be ones that could break the farm or ranch. Is the next generation willing to share in the risk of the ranch, and do they know the market value of the job they perform?

Theme 4: Trust — Do both generations want to see the ranch stay in the family through the next generations? Financial capabilities and stewardship decisions are also issues that should be discussed before the transfer so there is mutual trust in the operation of the ranch, he said.

Theme 5: Personal resilience — Farming and ranching is tough work, and knowing the attitude of all involved in difficult times is important. Do all generations have the ability to learn from struggles?

Theme 6: Retirement/Investment planning — When will the older generation retire? How will they be financially stable, and from where will the cash flow come?

Theme 7: Key non-family employees — How do they fit into the ranch’s vision in the generation transfer? Does the new generation have a good working relationship with key non-family employees? Are their financial incentives for them to stay after the senior generation transitions out?

More questions to get succession-planning discussion rolling can be found at, he concluded.

Specht spoke during the Business Workshop Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 4. For more information about the Angus Means Business National Convention & Trade Show, visit


Editor's Note: This article was written by staff or for the Angus Journal®. It is available for reprint upon request to editor Shauna Hermel. Photos are available upon request.

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