Mackintosh Group Limited | Succession planning vital to this family farm business

Paul and Anna, and Bruce and Helen Mackintosh live and farm just outside Wanganui on Dunkeld, a 225 hectare sheep, beef and grain cropping property.

Paul and his sister Ruth are fifth generation Mackintoshes, father Bruce is a fourth; their family has farmed Dunkeld since ancestors purchased the land in the late 1800s. In 2007, Mackintosh Group Limited was established, allowing Bruce and Helen’s children to buy shares in the company.

There are currently three properties run by the company: Dunkeld, the family home farm where Bruce, Helen, Paul and Anna live; Aramaire, a 690 hectare hill country farm on the other side of Wanganui; and The Lakes, a 210 hectare finishing farm south of Turakina. The Group also leases two blocks of land; 60 hectares “five minutes away” and 12 hectares in the Whangaehu valley.

Farming is very much a family affair. Paul is the Group’s operations manager and Ruth is the chairman of the board of directors.

“Anna and I live on the farm while Ruth and Simon live in Auckland. Although they live up there, they are very closely involved with all of the strategic decision making,” says Paul. “We have a board of directors, but the decisions tend to be made at shareholder level due to the close involvement of our spouses.”

There are seven full time equivalent employees across the Group’s operations and every two months the management team converges on the farm for a meeting. Bruce and Helen are still actively involved, with Bruce working on the farm most days and Helen providing general staff support. Succession planning is a regular topic of conversation.

“Mum and Dad are in the gradual process of retiring and there is a succession plan in place,” says Paul. “For my sister and me, our long terms goals are to grow the business and its assets to the point that it can be divided. We will then need to work on a succession plan for our own children, the sixth generation of Mackintoshes.   Succession planning is often a huge challenge for families working in the agriculture sector but we have a process in place.”

Despite having the family spread throughout the North Island, communication has proved no problem, due to technology. “We mainly use Skype and email for communication – sharing reports, emails and other important documents. For our accounting, we use Cashmanager Rural online, which allows everyone including consultants, the bank manager and our accountant to see our financials in real time,” says Paul.

The family works with Moore Stephens Markhams Wanganui director Jeff Whitlock. “Jeff is a real agribusiness whizz. He handles the finances of all of the Group’s farming interests, as well as our off-farm activities including the company’s shares in forestry and poultry operations.”

Jeff visits three or four times a year. “We meet at the farm and talk about our budgets, growth plans and discuss any specialist purchases or capital expenditure we may need to make. His advice around tax and financial implications is invaluable. Anna runs the farm office and is in regular contact with him.

“He understands agriculture and our business.”

Visit Mackintosh Group Limited website here.