Conflict Resolution- A Process

Rebecca Salisbury
Oct 15, 2015 01:42 PM

Conflict Resolution: A Process

By Cathy Olson, Business Consultant, AgStar Financial Services

And Rebecca Salisbury, Cooper Norman CPAs and Business Advisiors


 The fact that conflict exists is not a bad thing.  Resolving conflict effectively can lead to both personal and professional growth.  Awareness of a situation is expanded and individuals can gain insight into how they can achieve their own goals without undermining those of others.  Resolution brings cohesion, mutual respect, and a renewed drive to work together.  However, if conflict is not handled effectively, conflicting goals can turn into personal dislike and a break down of the team.


The dictionary defines “conflict” as “a struggle to resist or overcome; contest of opposing forces or powers; a painful tension set up by a clash between opposed and contradictory impulses”. Simply put, conflict could be defined as a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.


Conflict can stem from a variety of causes, and understanding them is the first step in dealing with it effectively.  Some common reasons may include lack of trust, an existing unresolved disagreement, miscommunication, various personalities, ego issues, underlying tensions, or combinations of the above.


 People tend to respond on the basis of their perceptions of the situation or the perceived threat facing them rather than the true area of disagreement.  Therefore, any efforts to resolve the conflict must begin with discovering the true source of disagreement. Conflict resolution is “a range of processes aimed at alleviating or eliminating sources of conflict”. Developing a conflict resolution can be useful for effectively managing conflict in your family and in your workplace.  It won’t guarantee an agreement but it greatly improves the likelihood that the problems can be understood, solutions explored, and negotiated agreement can occur within a constructive environment.


The following steps outline a conflict resolution process.


  1. Create an Effective Atmosphere
    1. Choose a time that is best for all parties.  Pick a place where all parties can feel comfortable and at ease.
    2. Personal preparation
      1. Calm yourself.  Take a deep breath and relax.  This clears your mind and models control.
    3. Generate and/or restore order: 
      1. Generate "Ground Rules"
        1. One person speaks at a time
        2. Commit to listen to one another
        3. Commit to understanding before responding
        4. Commit to confidentiality
        5. Talk directly with the person involved rather than seeking an ally or creating gossip
        6. Attack the issues, not the person/people
      2. Use time-outs
        1. Stop a "fight" that is damaging the process
    4. Hear the story:
      1. Clarify each party's perception of the conflict. Ask questions to get to the heart of the issues. Clean up misconceptions by gethering information to defuse tension.
    5. Listen first and talk second:
      1. Make eye contact and don’t interrupt.  Honor the individual’s need to be heard.  Use paraphrasing to assure understanding.  Encourage the other person to share his/her issues by using statements such as “I want to understand what is upsetting you.”  Reflect feelings; “I can understand how upsetting that is.”  Validate the concerns; “ I really appreciate that we are talking about this issue”.  Try to understand the problem and the other person’s goals while keeping the conversation objective rather than personal.  Be forgiving.  Recognize that it takes courage on the part of all parties: It takes courage to honestly and clearly articulate one’s  needs and it takes courage to sit down and listen to one’s  adversaries.
    6.  Agree on what the problem truly is:
      1. Often underlying needs, interests, and goals can cause people to perceive problems differently.
    7. Generate Options: 
      1. Break the problem into more manageable elements. Deal with one issue at a time.  Avoid “tangents”; “Earlier we were discussing issue A, but now I hear you raising another concern”.
      2. Look for common threads.  Try brainstorming options by writing them down and narrowing down the list.  Look at all ideas while deferring judgment and focus on ones that meet one or more of the shared needs.  Make sure options are workable for all parties.
    8. Agree on a solution and develop “doables”:
      1. This moves the options to resolution and brings closure.  Use the ideas that have the best chance of success.  Generate actions that meet shared needs and build trust.
    9. Mutual benefit agreements and test for satisfaction: 
      1. Ask – “Are you sure this will work for you?”  This should give you lasting solutions to specific conflicts.  Focus on agreements rather than demands.  Find shared goals and needs.  Create stepping stone solutions to move to mutual benefits.  Recognize the compromises or “givens”.  Assure clear communication.


Often our response to conflict during times of stress is to ignore it and hope it goes away because there is no time to meet about it or create new procedures.  This dooms us to repeat the same errors rather than learn from opportunities.  It is important to realize that all families and all businesses will experience some level of conflict.  The danger of leaving the conflict unresolved could result in business disruption or family discord.  Using a conflict resolution process will create a higher likelihood of successfully addressing and moving past these conflicts in a manner that will enhance family harmony and business operations.   Businesses and families need to have systems for dealing with disputes put in place during times of harmony so they can be implemented during times of stress.  Does your family/business have channels for expressing problems and concerns that are safe and effective?



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Brooke Eppa
Jun 9, 2014 10:17 AM
Any material appearing in communication or shared third party content from Cooper Norman is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, or tax advice provided by Cooper Norman. Opinions expressed in communications from Cooper Norman professionals or shared third party content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Cooper Norman or its associates. These communications are not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a legal relationship, including, but not limited to, an accountant-client relationship. Often these materials have been prepared by professionals, but the user should not substitute these materials for professional services, and should seek advice from an independent advisor before acting on any information presented. Cooper Norman assumes no obligation to provide notification of changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect the information provided.
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Celebrating 60 Years

Brooke Eppa
Jan 10, 2014 01:02 PM
2014 is a big year for Cooper Norman. We celebrate 60 years in the accounting practice, and as Jonas Salk once said, "The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more." We are grateful for these past years and excited for all the new ones to come. Thank you to all our clients, owners, employees, and greater communities who have made this history possible!
A little bit about Cooper Norman's history:
The Firm dates back to 1954 originating with E. LeGrande Nelson in Twin Falls, Idaho. LeGrande began his career in Twin Falls, Idaho working as a Revenue Agent for the Internal Revenue Service.  As the IRS was going through a major reorganization in 1953-54, LeGrande obtained his CPA license and left the IRS to join John Peterson, one of Idahoís first and oldest CPAs, with an office in Twin Falls, Idaho.  After a short while, with John Peterson, LeGrande left and started his own CPA firm. A formal announcement appeared in the Times News on December 10th, 1954. The Firm originally went by the name, "Nelson & Tullis Certified Public Accountants".
December 10, 1954 opening announcement for Cooper Norman, Times News, Twin Falls, Idaho
Several of the firm's early clients were individuals and businesses audited by LeGrande as a Revenue Agent.  The Tom Callen family (with sonís Jerry & Doc Callen) and the Pickett family were two of those clients. Gordon E. Beckstead joined the firm in 1965. The Firm grew substantially as a result of Beckstead's talent for attracting quality professionals and his ability to gain the confidence of a large number of business clients. 
In 1972, the Firm merged with a regional CPA practice based in Nampa, Idaho called Severn Ripley Doorn. The entire company was acquired in 1975 by the national public accounting firm Deloitte, Haskins & Sells. David M. Cooper joined the firm in 1974 as a tax senior after working as a revenue agent for the Internal Revenue Service for three years. Robert A. Norman also joined the Firm in 1974 after working for three years with the national public accounting firm of Arthur Young in San Jose, California. 
In 1978 Beckstead and Cooper separated the Twin Falls office from Deloitte, Haskins & Sells. The Firm became known as Beckstead Cooper Co. Robert Norman was admitted as a partner in 1979 to bring his accounting and auditing expertise to the practice.
The Firm expanded in 1981 by opening an office in Las Vegas which was headed up by Beckstead who moved from Twin Falls to start the Nevada office. In 1984, Dave Cooper was named Managing member of the firm under the Firm name Beckstead Cooper Jirovec. In 1985 Beckstead retired from the Firm and from public accounting. The Las Vegas office was subsequently sold to a national CPA practice and the name of the Firm was then changed to Cooper Norman.
J. David Stoddard joined the Firm in 1981, after practicing public accounting in Utah for two years. He became a partner in the Firm in 1987 and moved from Twin Falls to Idaho Falls in 1988 to open the Firm's next office. The Idaho Falls office was started by acquiring the accounting practice of Donald W. Ferguson and Oran D. Rooks who had practiced public accounting in eastern Idaho for several decades. Ferguson retired shortly after selling his portion of the practice to Cooper Norman while Rooks stayed on another nine years before retiring. In 1983, the firm concluded that the partners should develop niche industries to target market our services. Dave Stoddard championed the firm's pension administration business segment which flourished througout the 1980s and 1990s and was ultimately sold to a Utah pension administration firm in 2011. 
Ronald L. Belliston joined the Twin Falls office of the Firm in 1982 after serving seven years in the United States Marine Corp. Ron Belliston championed the dairy industry niche for the firm beginning in 1984. The dairy niche became the firm's largest industry niche about 2004 and remains the largest today. Ron became a partner in 1992 and was elected the firm's managing partner in 2004.
The Firm departed from a traditional fraternal accounting firm ownership structure and adopted a corporate (operating) form of ownership and management in 1991. In 2000, the Firm adopted the Cooper Norman Practice Unit Participation Plan or PUPP trust. This trust funcitons essentially as an Employee Stock Option Plan. Professional staff are eligible to purchase shares in the company after completing 3 years of service and support staff are eligible after 5 years of service. The shares are held in a trust and are otherwise identical to the shares owned by the other partners. The managing partner serves as the trustee for this trust.
Clint Tavenner became a partner in 1996. In 2003 Clint Tavenner took on the role of Partner in Charge of the Idaho Falls office, and in January of 2004, the Firm opened an office in Boise headed up by Dave Cooper who moved from Twin Falls to start the office. Dave Stoddard retired in 2008 followed in 2010 by Dave Cooper and Robert Norman.  
An American Falls office was opened in late 2012 and was moved to Pocatello to merge with a new office there in October of 2013. The Boise office was closed in October 2013. Clint Tavenner took over the role of Managing Member in June of 2013.
Today the Firm employs nearly 80 total personnel between its three offices in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello and enjoys the reputation of being one of the largest and most respected firms in Idaho.
60 Years, Partners in your success since 1954
Information about Cooper Norman's history was contributed by Ron Belliston (partner since 1992) and Marilee Allison (partner since 1996) and Dave Cooper (partner from 1978 to 2009). 
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Retirement Means Big Decisions for Farm Families

Brooke Eppa
Jan 8, 2014 10:12 AM
Retirement can be a tricky business to plan for. The article "Retirement Unlikely for Some Blue-collar Americans" tackled some of the issues, and our own Mike Salisbury weighed in.
'Farmers, loggers and other agriculture workers often have their wealth tied up in their homes or work property. Business consultant Mike Salisbury of American Falls, Idaho, has spent more than three decades helping farmers plan their financial futures. He said the biggest concern for most is succession _ whether any children want the farm once a farmer retires.


"Now, statistics pretty well show that about two-thirds of farm families do not have successors interested in coming back into the business," Salisbury said.


Without someone to take over the family business, farmers look for an exit strategy, he said. "There are some really complex tax ramifications for when a farmer decides to stop farming."


He said farmers approaching retirement want to know how to convert the equity in their land, fixtures, buildings and machinery into cash without having to pay the upper tax rates or having to pay taxes in a lump sum the day assets are sold.


"We like to think of our farmers as just barely getting by and dirt poor," Salisbury said. "For the vast majority of farmers today, the ones that survived the economic crash of the `80s, they're probably in pretty good shape."'

"Retirment Unlikely for Some Blue-collar Americans" By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS Associated Press

Find a copy of the whole article here.

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Devin Peterson Joins Cooper Norman

Rebecca Salisbury
Jan 8, 2014 10:00 AM
Cooper Norman is proud to announce the recent hiring of Devin Peterson as Business Consultant. Devin will be working out of the Pocatello office and specializing in farm business planning, financial analysis, family business succession and transition planning and other consulting services to farm and agribusiness clients. He will be working closely with Mike Salisbury, who has specialized in management consulting for 35 years. 
Devin completed his B.S. in Agribusiness at Brigham Young University-Idaho. He also completed his M.S. in Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University, focusing his research on intergenerational farm transfers and their financial implications.  He grew up in Firth, ID, working on his grandparents’ farms, and enjoys going back to help out in potato harvest, cattle drives, and anything else dirty and outdoors. He is happily married to Camille Peterson.
Cooper Norman was founded in 1954 and is one of Idaho’s largest and most respected accounting and business advisory firms.  They have offices located in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello.  Cooper Norman believes in recruiting the brightest minds and developing strong teams that focus on the clients’ needs, helping them develop strategies to achieve their goals.  For more information about Cooper Norman, please visit us at or call the Pocatello office at 208-232-6006.
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CN Mobile App

Dec 13, 2013 06:10 PM
Cooper Norman is proud to announce the release of CN Mobile, an Apple-based app to help you with your everyday business needs.  Cooper Norman recognizes that mobile applications have become a fundamental expectation of the modern taxpayer. Our team is focused on resolving your ongoing needs and is dedicated to keeping you connected and informed.

 CN Mobile is designed to help individuals and business owners manage their day-to-day operations quickly and efficiently. CN Mobile is perfect for when you're on the go, need to make a quick reference, or need to calculate the implications of a business decision. CN Mobile connects you to today’s financial news or market trends. CN Mobile also keeps you involved in tax law changes and offers planning ideas.


CN Mobile features the following:


  • Blog Feed to Cooper Norman’s most recent news and events.
  • Web resources to help you quickly navigate to frequently referenced sites.
  • Current and pertinent tax facts, including our annual tax fact brochure.
  • Business and financial calculators, INCLUDING:
    • Basic Calculator - The basic calculator is designed to perform basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division functions. Great for quick use and reference.
    • Breakeven Analysis - The breakeven analysis calculator is designed to demonstrate how many units of your product must be sold to make a profit.
    • Cost of Missing a Discount Calculator - Cost of missing a discount is the equivalent annual interest rate of a discount on early payment to a supplier. Calculate the annual cost of missing a discount.
    • Economic Order Quantity Calculator - Economic order quantity is used to determine the most efficient order size for a company. EOQ applies only when demand for a product is constant and each new order is delivered in full when inventory reaches zero.
    • (iPad Only) Financial Ratio Analysis - The financial ratio analysis offers insight into the profitability, performance, and solvency of any given company's operations.
    • Idaho Investment Tax Credit Calculator - Determine the amount of Idaho income tax credit you qualify for based on capital expenditures made in Idaho during the current year.
    • Like Kind Exchange - If you exchange either business or investment property that is of the same nature or character, gain can be deferred. This calculator is designed to calculate recognized loss, gains and the basis for your newly received property.
    • Loan Calculator - Enter the total loan amount, the annual interest rate, and the number of years the loan will be in existence to determine your monthly payment and total interest.
    • (iPad Only) Net Present Value/Capital Budgeting Calculator - Annual cash flows are used to analyze potential investments by companies, known as capital budgeting. Projected cash flows are generated, and analyzed to determine whether a project meets required criteria for approval.
    • Pay or Play Optimization Calculator - Determine whether it is more advantageous to provide your employees qualified health coverage or subject yourself to the penalties imposed by healthcare reform.
    • (iPad Only) Regular Income Tax Calculator - Use this calculator to get a general idea of what your eventual tax liability may be. Begin by selecting your filing status.
    • Retirement Plan Contribution Calculator - Use this calculator to determine your maximum contribution amount for the different types of small business retirement plans, such as Individual 401(k), SIMPLE IRA, or SEP IRA.
    • (iPad Only) Self Employment Income Tax Calculator - Normally, these taxes are withheld by your employer. However, if you are self-employed, operate a farm, or are a church employee, you may owe self-employment taxes.
  • Portal Access to your personal tax and financial information.
  • Links to Cooper Norman’s social media, as well as comprehensive information about Cooper Norman and the services offered.
  • For iPhone users, quick phone links to each office.

 CN Mobile App, Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Idaho, Accountant, Calculators

Download the app today!  In celebration of our  60th anniversary, Cooper Norman is making the mobile app free to download during the month of January, 2014.
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Cooper Norman Leadership Transition 2013

Brooke Eppa
Aug 28, 2013 03:31 PM
Transition Planning is important. It’s one of the things we help walk our clients through as they hand off the torch from one leader to the next in a smooth step forward. We don’t just offer it as a service. We also utilize transition planning in our own business plan.
Ron Belliston, CPA served 9 years as Managing Member of the Firm. We are excited to have Ron utilize his vast leadership experience as the co-chair of Cooper Norman’s Dairy Industry Committee. He will be able to dedicate more time pursuing his passion to grow a healthy Idaho Dairy Industry using his skill and experience in dairy accounting. 
Clint Tavenner, CPA brings 10 years of management experience as the Member in Charge of the Idaho Falls office. He worked with Ron the past two years to ensure a smooth and orderly transition into his new role as Managing Member of the Firm
We are proud to announce Blake Johnson, CPA as the new Member in Charge of the Idaho Falls office.  
Transition Planning, Strong Leadership, Smooth Transition, CPAs and Business Advisors of Idaho, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello
Transition Planning
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Navigating Business Succession Minefields

Mike Salisbury, CAC
Jul 16, 2013 03:32 PM

The aging baby boomer generation is impacting the farm population as well as the non-farming population. This trend is generating increased interest by these aging farmers to begin to seriously consider developing a business succession plan for their farming business. Well over half of our consulting clients are seeking advice and counsel on developing business succession plans. Research has shown that only 3 of 10 family businesses will survive into the second generation and that number drops even more for the success of 3rd generation family businesses. There is an old adage in family business circles that granddad makes it, dad holds it together and the son loses it. However, in our 25 years of practice we have determined that with solid, no nonsense planning, a family can greatly increase its odds of having a successful business succession.

Success Rate of Family Businesses going into the second generation, Mike Salisbury, CAC Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Agriculture Business Advising, Transition Planning, Succession Planning

The keys to success for family businesses require solid planning, a no nonsense approach to managing the business, well defined family business boundaries and high standards and expectations for performance by all members of the family business. There can be no dead wood among the owner management team. Accepting poor or mediocre performance can drive a stake in the heart of the family business.

Stage One of Succession Planning, Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Agricultural Advising, Agricultural Accounting

The succession planning process involves 3 major stages. The first of these is the discovery or readiness process. The family needs to review key measures to ensure that the business is ready for succession. This involves a thorough analysis of the financial position and past performance.  An in-depth review of key financial measures such as owner equity, working capital, profitability, capital efficiency, and debt repayment capacity is critical to predicting the business’s ability to add owners. A study of the family readiness also includes looking at and evaluating the quality of the relationship between the senior generation and the successor generation. A discussion between the generations regarding goals, lifestyles, financial desires and acceptance of the business cultural values is also essential in determining the likelihood of there being long term success of the plan.

If this stage is skipped the result is quite often the lack of a solid foundation for the relationship between the generations. Also, it is important that any hidden agendas are discovered, discussed and a plan developed to resolve them. This is evidenced by the large number of family businesses where the people aren’t happy and fulfilled and the business isn’t financially successful. If it appears that the participants of the succession team agree that the people and the financial equation are in position for succession then a move to stage two can occur.

Stage Two of Succession Planning, Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Agricultural Advising, Agricultural Accounting

Stage two is the plan development stage. Here the succession team does its who, what, where and when planning. The “who” identifies who is going to participate in the plan, both today and in the future. The “what” process discovers the core values of the business, the objectives of the succession, the mission statement of the “new” business and determines detailed job descriptions, organizational charts and personal development goals.

The “where” discussions determine the focus of the business, both now and after succession, and the geographical location of business activity. One of the most interesting things that I observe in today’s farm family business succession processes is the lack of proactive, visionary, progressive attitudes among the successor generation. This is a definite change from the young farmers of a generation ago. I will leave it up to the rural sociologists to analyze if this is actually true and why it might be.

The “when” determines the anticipated retirement dates for the senior generation members of the team. This is always an interesting discussion. One of our clients has a  family with numerous senior members and even more successor generation members. The seniors failed for years to make any concrete retirement plans as to dates and expectations. Then, in November, one of the senior members was forced to retire due to health reasons. That opened the spigot and within 12 months all members of the senior generation had decided that they wanted to retire. This put tremendous pressure on the family, the advisory team and the outside stakeholders. The story has a happy ending, at least to this chapter, all seniors are retired and the succession plan is implemented and ticking along.

This second phase also develops the criteria for successor generation members to join the business as employees and lays out the road to eventual ownership. There are three stages of development for the successor generation that seem to make sense and assist in the orderly and successful transition. The three stages are: Responsibility, Control and Ownership. So the natural sequence is to work as an employee to prove oneself as worthy to go onto the next step where the individual is advanced to a manager status. After experience and success as a manager, the individual can be considered for membership into the successor entity ownership group. Normally, there is an ordered process that includes a mentor, systematic evaluations and a consensus on joining the ownership group. This stage may also outline expectations for educational requirements, full time off farm work experience for a period of time, and a demonstrated value to the business.  This is the place where family/business boundaries need to be developed to ensure that business issues are handled in a business like fashion and family issues remain family issues. No farm in today’s economy can afford to have dead wood in its ownership ranks.

The key to having the above process work effectively is to have the entire group develop the plan and the implementation process jointly. The plan needs to have buy-in from all internal stakeholders, including all the members of both generations, the spouses and any other family members, including members of the family that are working off the farm.

There is much to be gained to have the plan developed 5 years prior to the first member on the successor generation coming on board. This gives adequate notice to all involved and thus allows for preparations.

Stage Three of Succession Planning, Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Agricultural Advising, Agricultural Accounting

Stage three of the planning process is the implementation stage. The plan, now complete, needs to have wheels put under it, it needs a champion from the senior generation to ensure that all the detailed planning gets put into motion.

This is the stage where the process tends to breakdown, mainly from neglect. It is important to keep the plan in front of all stakeholders. A reasonable goal is to have at least one annual review of the plan and update any portion of it that needs attention.

As I learned as a bright, shiny 2nd Lt in the US Army a long time ago, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”.  
Mike Salisbury, CAC
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Mike Salisbury and His Team Join Cooper Norman

Brooke Eppa
Feb 15, 2013 11:32 AM

Cooper Norman is pleased to announce that Salisbury Management Services (formerly known as Lookout Ridge Consulting) has joined our team. The partnership is part of a broader plan to provide family succession planning, financial managment, and business planning services to the agriculture community in Idaho and surrounding states. 
American Falls Agriculture Business Advisors Office of Cooper Norman CPAs and Business Advisors appearance in the newspaper
(Photo added to the blog after the open house took place)

Mike Salisbury formerly of Salisbury Management and Lookout Ridge Consulting
Mike Salisbury and his office have been involved in Agricultural Business Consulting since 1979 when he originally formed Salisbury Managment Services to deliver family business solutions to the agriculture sector. Mike, his wife, Becky, and Sarah McOmber join the Cooper Norman team in providing high quiality, personalized accounting, tax and business consulting services. 
An open house will be held at the American Falls office, 73 Fort Hall Avenue, on Thursday, February 28th, from 1:00PM to 4:00PM. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate this new partnership and learn more about how Cooper Norman can contribute to the success of local business, their own families, as well as the larger agricultural community.
American Falls Agriculture Business Advisory Office for Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Boise, American Falls
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What Happens to the Family Farm

Brooke Eppa
Jan 8, 2013 01:34 PM

Who Gets the Farm?

Planning for retirement is tricky for most of us, but when it involves the family farm there are a lot of different issues to consider. Channel 11 talks to a local Idaho farm in Buhl as well as our own Todd Wadsworth about this issue:

Our Ag Seminar taking place in Burley, Nampa, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello will talk about estate and transition planning issues as well as other financial considerations for agricultural operations.
From the Field to Financials 2013 Ag Seminar Schedule

You can learn more about Todd Wadsworth, CPA, CVA by visiting his bio.
To learn more about Cooper Norman's Agriculture services, visit our Ag Industry Page.
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