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Whence It Came--Pete Encourages us to Hear Ron Rabou at the ASAC Annual Conference

This blog is a commentary from Pete Weisenberger on wealth management, with an encouraging message for us to attend the ASAC Annual Conference to hear Ron Rabou's personal story of persistence to succeed.
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Whence It Came
Much ink has been expended over centuries writing about and detailing thoughts about wealth, its origins and its dispositions.  Many fortunes, dynasties and empires have come and gone over the issues of wealth.  Management, and more often than not, mismanagement, of wealth accumulation has driven the economies of the world since the beginning of time.  Indeed, biblical writings tell of the rise and fall of empires, not always recorded in just financial terms, though.   Examples abound of the chaos, confusion, deceit and outright theft that has torn families apart and dissipated wealth that, properly channeled and managed, would have provided for multiple family generations, but also would have been directed to humanitarian and philanthropic goals and objectives. 
The principles of wealth management are the same for the everyone, from the mega-wealthy to the low-wage earner, the self-employed or the inheritance receiver.  Whence it came, where it went.  Whether diligently deployed to grow and multiply, to be put to good use in many ways, or to be squandered in more ways than can be vividly described, wealth makes the world go ‘round.
Planning, Preparation and Performance
Planning for wealth – it often never happens, like winning the lottery.  Hoped for, but unexpected and never with a plan. A real plan anyway.  
Any family planning for wealth have to start before there is any wealth to speak of.  A family capable of having a functional relationship amongst all its members should have a mindset that, no matter the amount of the accumulation of wealth, that it will 1) have a culture of stewardship, and 2) have the philosophy it is responsible for long-term value creation across future generations.  This mindset begins at the outset and must be taught and maintained through the generations.
The contrasting stories of a couple of dynasty families of old – the Vanderbilts and the Rothschilds – are illustrative of these principles.  Whereas the descendants to Cornelius Vanderbilt saw the fortune handed down from his generation dissipate amongst a culture of profligate spending and a sense of entitlement, Sir Nathan Rothschild completed all the proper planning from a financial perspective.  He further planned a process and organizational structure to educate his children and subsequent generations in how to live their lives independently of the family wealth, without the sense of entitlement, and, also, collectively in the management of the organization.  Imparting and embedding a strong sense of shared values, working together, and actively engaging in the world community has been the enduring hallmark of the Rothschild family.
Farm Families
Obviously, the vast majority of people on the planet are not of the scale and wealth of the mega-wealthy.  The ninety-nine percent of us out here may not have the wealth of the one per-centers, but I submit that the principles of wealth management are the same.  If we wish to not only succeed in our present efforts, but to also build wealth for future generations, we simply have to adopt the principles of the wealthy and apply them with focus, diligence and determination.  
The rural lifestyle draws people for a variety of reasons, explicit to each person.  One must concentrate on the fact, however, that it is a business, even if being supported or subsidized by other financial sources.   There are plenty of intangibles in the lifestyle, but we can’t lose sight of the fact it must be profitable and viable for the long term.
Here, let’s be clear.  I use the words “wealthy” and “wealth” a lot.  Wealth is not just a big bank account or investment account.  Assets assembled and deployed in a collaborative effort to generate profit for further investment...and further profit for further investment...and on and on, will generate economic activity and the multiplying effect of profit and investment for growing numbers of people.  A rising tide will indeed lift all boats.  Capitalism is the greatest economic system ever known.  (More on that subject in another article).
Wealth is measured as well in relationships; one’s character and outlook on life; contentment in one’s vocation; joy and peace; knowing and being open to God’s grace; love and enjoyment of family and friends, no matter their financial statement; and one’s health.
Increasing the Odds
Farm families are a subset of the general population, yet, as a group, carry financial obligations which dwarf the average citizen’s financial statement.  The need for proactive planning, preparation and performance can’t be overstated.
What factors and characteristics of a successful family, appropriately applied, will help propel a viable farm business forward – to the next generation of leaders and beyond?  Thousands upon thousands of books have been written about personal and business success.  There are only so many words in the English language with which the subject of success be described and taught.  Almost anyone can write a book about most anything.  Skilled writers, however, with perception and a natural talent to put words on paper such that a reader can readily understand and begin to apply the concepts to real world situations and events.
Succession Planning should begin at the beginning.  Not later in life and career.  Mid-career events may cause significant change.  Things happen, accidents, death, divorce, disability, unexpected Black Swan events, political upheavals.  Different generations may have different values and different career goals.
Some books which, I think, which have stood the test of time and have contributed mightily to many companies’ success and longevity include Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.  These authors have provided excellent advice and guidance, backed by years of experience, lots of in-depth research and interviews with people from all walks of life.  
Another source of inspiration and sound advice I recently discovered is Ron Rabou’s book, Make Your Own Way.  Ron is a fifth generation Wyoming farmer and rancher who persevered through an unpleasant breakup of the family farm and ranch started by his great-grandmother.  His story of persistence and determination to succeed over odds stacked against him is one I am replaying in my mind often as I work with families navigating similar, though hopefully less antagonistic, generational changes.  Many lessons about relationships, both family and non-family, can be taken from Ron’s timely book.
The takeaway for me in all the literature I’ve read over the years is simple in concept, difficult in execution.  Ron’s message in his book spells it out.  Finding Clarity, What Matters?, Keeping Perspective, Developing Focus, Relationships, Communication, Trust.  These are fundamental things to keep in the forefront of all planning, thinking and preparing for the prosperous existence of a long-lasting and viable family farm and ranch business.
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This article is the personal opinion and perspective of the author and may or may not be consistent with those of other ASAC Members.  ASAC as an organization does not advocate positions on issues.
Pete Weisenberger
Weisenberger Agricultural Services, LLC
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