What Will You Retire To?
As of this writing I have 68 days left running RMC before a new generation of management takes the helm. It’s been a good ride, but it’s been a long trail and Kathy and I are ready to hand over the reins. But just because we are ready doesn’t mean it’s easy. When what you do is a big part of who you are, who are you when you stop doing?
It’s not enough to be ready to stop. We have to be ready to start life without RMC. This isn’t just about Kathy and me. There are four questions anyone preparing for retirement faces:
1.What are your financial needs and how will they be met?
Your financial needs are simple to project. How they will be met is more complicated. Too often all the profit a farm or ranch makes gets plowed straight back into the business. It can be a serious challenge for the incoming generation if the previous generation is financially reliant on the business, even after they’ve stepped aside. This is one of many reasons why it is smart to invest profit in off-ranch income-generating investments. It is much easier for the next generation to run the business and maintain positive relationships if they aren’t working to fund your life in retirement.
2.What role will you have in the business?
When what you do has become a big part of who you are, it may not be realistic to suddenly stop doing, severing all ties to the business. Losing the accumulated knowledge and experience of the retiring generation probably isn’t in the incoming generation’s best interest either.
Whether working in the business, serving on the board as an advisor or doing something else entirely, the retiring generation’s role, and degree of control, should be clearly defined. Dad could be a wise, appreciated advisor, but without clear definition he could easily become an interfering annoyance.
3.What will you do?
You can’t retire from ranching, or anything else for that matter. You need something to retire to. And you need to know what you’ll be retiring to, before you step aside. This is the most challenging question for me as I prepare to step aside
When you’ve spent the better part of your adult life consumed by something you love doing, had your finger on the pulse of your business and had the authority to make strategic and tactical decisions, it’s difficult to imagine another reality, and it’s really hard to let go. Unfortunately, if you don’t step aside, it is impossible for a new generation to step up.
4.When should you retire?
Someone recently came to me with a new idea. I dismissed it as politely and quickly as I could. Kathy and I had already made the decision to retire, but in that moment, it was clear to me that RMC needed new leadership. When you reject new ideas before considering their potential, you aren’t leading, you are hanging on. You can’t lead a business into the future if all you are willing to do is hang on to the past.
Embracing change is hard. People tend to exaggerate the value and underestimate the risk of maintaining the status quo. In contrast, they low-ball the potential value and overestimate the risk of change. Maintaining the status quo feels safe. But we confuse safety with comfort and the unknown with danger.
Having spent the last three and a half decades helping people navigate change, I’m probably more aware of these tendencies than most. Even so, I’ve found it challenging to thoroughly and objectively explore what I’ll be retiring too. My path into retirement is more of a concept than a plan. There are many exciting possibilities, but there are also plenty of unknowns.
Successful retirement is not something you prepare for the month before you retire. Stan Parsons used to say, “Once you see the tidal wave, it’s too late!” Heeding Stan’s advice, Kathy and I have been preparing for some time. As a result, Kathy and I are prepared for exciting adventures, and RMC will be in excellent hands as Dallas and his team continue to help people transform their ranches into successful businesses.