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EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Network
News article4 November 2022

Inspirational ideas: Helping young entrepreneurs to ask the right questions

A Swedish Operational Group is developing a tool which helps entrepreneurs to plan for long-term activities, providing guidance on issues concerning the company's long-term sustainability.

This inspirational idea is also available in a Slovak version. Translation courtesy of the National Rural Network Slovakia. Read more EIP-AGRI inspirational ideas in Slovak on the NRN website

This inspirational idea is also available in Swedish. Translation courtesy of the Swedish Rural Network.

 

A Swedish Operational Group is developing a tool which helps entrepreneurs to plan for long-term activities, like future change of ownership or retirement. It also provides guidance on issues concerning the company's long-term sustainability and the importance of personal values for entrepreneurship and leadership.

Setting up, running and handing over a business as a farmer and small business owner is a significant undertaking and requires a lot of personal investment. Often it can be very difficult to distinguish between private life and professional work. Furthermore, finding advice on topics which go beyond the technical side of the business is not always easy. This has led to many young people deciding to move away from agriculture and even from rural areas.

In Sweden, farmers already use tools to help plan for the future. There are many tools available, each looking at different aspects of the business. The Operational Group Företagaren Plan B (‘Entrepreneur Plan B’) decided to take this to the next level, combining all relevant planning questions into one toolbox. Knut Wålstedt from the project “We wanted to help farm owners and entrepreneurs to develop their personal long-term plans regarding financial, social and technical aspects. Improving these prospects, particularly for young farmers, can contribute to the economic, social, and territorial development of rural areas.” If people feel safer, happier and more empowered in their jobs, this can lead to places being more attractive for internal and external innovators and start-ups.

Farmer feeding her cows

The project’s aim was to build the integrated Företagaren Plan B web-based planning tool and to develop a handbook and online training course to go with it. Knut continues “The tool helps young entrepreneurs to ask the right questions, it is based on and contributes to achieving a balance between the family's and the company's financial requirements and capacity.” To create the online tool and training course, the Operational Group brought together agricultural advisers, environmental companies and banks.

The Företagaren Plan B tool-box has five different modules:

Finance Plan B is a financial forecast model. It uses financial information from the company crossed with data from the Swedish Consumer Agency. A short form needs to be filled in where the entrepreneur can choose between maintaining ‘business as usual’ or making various investments and changes. Calculations includes e.g a multi-year budget report and a return-on-investment evaluation.

Pension Plan B calculates the future pension on the basis of contributions which have already been paid as well as future income. Users can test, for example, different forms of supplementary pension savings, deferred pension or higher incomes. Current rules for tax and pension calculations are integrated into the tool.
Generation Plan B guides the entrepreneur through upcoming or ongoing change of ownership. The module helps both transferer and transferee to understand the different concepts of value, from a tax, legal and also ethical point of view. Data is based on a study by the Operational Group on successful changes of ownership thanks to which criteria for success were identified.

Environment Plan B looks at the company from an environmental and sustainability perspective. Again, data is taken from an analysis by the Operational Group, presenting agro-ecological measures which have been evaluated and ranked based on their environmental and economic effects. This module also allows entrepreneurs to exchange experiences and tips which each other.

Values Plan B looks more widely at personal values of entrepreneurs with regards to their business and families. Knut “We believe that it is very important to know and build on your own core values. With this tool, we guide the entrepreneur through a task of identifying what these personal values are, this might be "ambition", "trust", compassion" and teamwork". The idea is to characterise what entrepreneurship means to them, setting out a foundation on which future decision-making can be based.”

The partnership encountered some difficulties in finding markets for their products. Therefore so far, the toolbox has only been tested in a few practical cases. Knut says “In these cases it was very clear that following our mind-set and using our toolbox provided valuable insight and knowledge to all partners in a family firm transition. The participating families provided very positive evaluations on the training courses.”

They are continuing to carry out dissemination activities, promoting the web-based tool to certain market-oriented institutions, such as banks and consultancy firms. They have also planned to test a new module on marketing for courses starting in the end of January 2023 and a self-instructed online version of the training course.


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Publication date
4 November 2022
Focus
Innovation, knowledge exchange & EIP-AGRI