How To Develop A Long-Term Business Plan

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Short-term thinking is only part of the solution. Farming demands long-term financial planning.

It is easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day decisions that keep your farm running well. Don’t let those short-term needs distract you from what’s needed for long-term viability and growth. Developing a long-term plan is key to the future success of your operation.

You will always face unpredictable factors, such as weather, markets and crop health. Without a long-term plan, you may find yourself being continually derailed as you react to each factor in the present. Solid financial planning helps you account for those hurdles and minimize their impact. You’re less likely to over- or underreact to the present when your sights are set on the future.

“Think of your long-term financial plan as a map for your operation.”

Long-term planning will also help you maximize net farm income, avoid unforeseen taxes and take advantage of new opportunities.

Short-term thinking alone is only part of the solution. Farming demands long-term financial planning.

Developing the plan

Think of your long-term financial plan as a map for your operation. Developing this plan will help your operation meet its goals and be successful in the long-term.

If you’re wondering where to begin, a key first step is forming a team of trusted financial advisers. Your team may include your banker, accountant, attorney, lender, landlords/tenants and other key members of the farming operation.
Your financial team will help you create a long-term plan tailored to your operation. Working with an objective team will neutralize emotion and keep you focused on the profitability, risk-bearing abilities and financial depth of your operation.
To start the process, ask yourself four questions:
 
  • Where am I today?
  • Where do I want to be in the future?
  • How do I get there? 
  • Who will get there with me?
While short-term plans focus on the current cycle, such as critical capital purchases and short-term pricing strategies, your long-term plans will address items like tax and risk management strategies, succession planning, and farm policy planning.
Essential components of a sound long-term financial plan include these elements:

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  • Shared vision: Work with key operation owners to outline your future goals. It’s important that everyone agrees on the same vision.
  • Risk-bearing ability: Outline your operation’s current risks, as well as plans for opportunities and adversity.
  • Contingency planning: Identify alternative investments or changes in the operation that will help you achieve your long-term goals. Outline factors that may derail your plans and determine how you’ll put the operation back on track if needed.
  • Succession planning: Decide who will run the operation next. Create a process so this transition will happen as smoothly as possible.
Long-term financial planning is important for your operation, especially in challenging times. Working with a strong financial team, preparing for challenges and opportunities, and planning for future operational needs will set you on the path to success.

Natasha Cox, Regional Vice President

Natasha Cox is Regional Vice President for Farm Credit Mid-America. She is located in northwest Indiana.

More from this author: Financially Speaking: 5-Year Business Plan Pitfalls (Episode 14), Financially Speaking: Summer Financial Planning (Episode 12), Financially Speaking: Managing Fixed Costs (Episode 11)

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