Agritourism Part Four: What are my next steps?
By now, you’ve learned what Agritourism is, and the basic concepts to qualify (Part 1), we’ve discussed several examples and how agritourism can benefit your business (Part 2), and I’ve explored eight unique ways that agritourism protects you from certain legal concerns (Part 3). You’ve done your research, you’ve made your plans, you are ready to get started on your new idea – now what?
Step One – Forming Your Idea
Maybe you’ve been thinking on converting your farm to an agritourism business for a decade. Maybe you just noticed your neighbors are expanding their operations and want to get involved in that new market. Maybe you’ve stumbled onto my Facebook page, and, over the last few articles, a lightbulb went off in your head. No matter how you got here, you have an idea in your head about your next steps, the future of your farm.
Before advancing to step two, make sure that step one is completed. Know what services you are interested in offering, who you are interested in targeting, and what employees or teams you may need. Likewise, start listing what changes you will need to make, what buildings need to be created, and what advertising you are planning. While these will be evolving, and change as your plans are brought into reality, a solid starting basis directs each of the next steps.
Step Two – Contacting Your Advisors
Once you have a solid, fundamental plan in place, the next step is to bring in advisors. This isn’t just to spend money, having the right protections in place will protect you from any concerns, having the right advice will allow you to open on time, and having the right structure will smooth your operations down the line. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, so do not set your future business up for problems.
Consider: tax advisors, accountants, legal counsel, business experts, marketing or advertising experts, any additional staff training that may be needed, and similar concepts.
Step Three – Discussing Your Ideas
Now that you have found advisors you can trust, it is time to start working on the meat of the project – this is where your ideas will either change or be realized. Your accountants and tax advisors will be able to determine your fiscal strategy, the best way to offset your initial costs. You attorney, who should be me, will be able to ensure you are set up properly, navigate any red tape, and prepare you to be protected. Likewise, any marketing or training advisors will be able to start preparing on their end, allowing your launch to be flawless, and on time.
In addition to just realizing your ideas, your advisors will also be able to tell you what will and will not work. There are many good ideas that are not feasible due to safety rules in a local township. Likewise, there are great ideas that, due to the need to preserve a specific business structure or CAUV, cannot be implemented, or must be carefully planned. The point of this is not to say “no”, rather, it is to create a business model for your use that will run without a hitch, achieve your goals, and, most importantly, keeps lawsuits, and the government, from interfering with your future plans.
Step Four – The Incidentals
During the discussion phase of your agritourism planning phase, numerous incidental issues will arise. Maybe there is a deed restriction on your property, or a specific taxing structure must be followed in order to protect a larger corporate structure. Be prepared for new complications to arise, and for any of your advisors to bring up concerns you may not have realized would exist – that’s why you want experts you can trust.
Though my list is longer than the space available, some of what I initially look for is: your insurance documents, to determine if a new policy is needed; your employment practices, to update as needed or otherwise prepare; your business structure, to ensure it is set up and that you have a proper liability shield; your contracts and advertising, to ensure there is no accidental triggering of different codes; your local codes and rules, to ensure there are no special safety exceptions that apply; your current setup and tax structure, to determine if there are better options available with the new business opportunity.
Step Five – Walking Your Farm
Most attorneys I know are not willing to put on boots, jeans, and walk your fence line. At White Law, we’ve walked miles upon miles of pipelines, coal piles, and easements. I have personally ridden horses around a track, an ATV to a remote camping site, and hiked paths to fishing holes, in order to check the conditions for clients. Boots on the ground are different than eyes in the sky, and seeing potential liability concerns, or advising on better practices to avoid litigation, is a key component to my approach in agritourism.
Step Six – Paperwork, Lots and Lots of Paperwork
What is a trip to a lawyer without paperwork? When it comes to an agritourism business, there is a significant amount of opening paperwork that must be completed. A lot of this is done by your advisors – I will craft all your contracts, your employment documents, your policies and procedures, all applications and forms, and the like – but there are a lot of signatures that need to be completed, and information that only you can provide. By having the right advisors however, you can ensure that the paperwork is done properly, that a final review of all necessary forms has been completed, and that you are only being asked to do what only you can do.
Though each matter is unique, and each agritourism idea will have different concerns, some typical paperwork to expect would be: new insurance documents; a complete business structure from articles of incorporation to operating rules; new employment policies and guidelines; new contracts; applications for variances or permits if required.
Step Seven – Opening
You’ve completed your initial plans, as they’ve evolved and changed. Your experts have completed the paperwork and gotten your signatures. Your architects have made their changes, and all filings have been returned stamped. Congratulations, YOU MADE IT, but there is still a lot to do.
Once all of the initial steps are completed, your advisors will start to focus on the immediate concern of opening day. Ensuring that your advertisements go out, and their contracts are fulfilled, becomes an important part of my world. Hiring decisions, assignment of duty, placating any irate local politician, and the like are all concerns that will need to be addressed for opening day. While Disney famously recovered from still-setting sidewalks and nonfunctioning rides, that is not a risk I am willing to take with your business, and you shouldn’t be either. It is important to remember that while you aren’t making money yet and are desperate to start, opening day is your first impression, and it can make, or break, your future.
Step Eight – Ongoing Concerns
Once you are opened, the role of your advisors, and you, transitions to a long-term approach. You want your agritourism business to pay for your retirement, your kid’s college, and be passed down to the grandchildren in due time. This is a two-role job – business administrator and business owner. As an administrator, you will oversee the daily operations of your agritourism business, solving problems and keeping folks happy; your goal is to achieve your daily, monthly, and annual goals. As a business owner, however, you also have to make the tough decisions, switch insurance providers, change benefits, and focus on the long-term stability of your farm; your goal is to achieve your three-, five-, and ten-year plans.
Just like you, my role also changes once we get past opening day. Instead of specific, directed advice and services to bring about your vision, I become more of a general counsel. I ensure that you meet as required, so your liability shield remains. I maintain regular communications of any change in the statutes, or with agritourism especially, changes in the case law. I become a resource for you to send ideas and questions to, allowing you to continue to grow, while being protected.
How Can White Law Office Help Me?
As you can tell, there are a ton of moving parts to starting your agritourism business. If you are looking to explore your farm’s future, White Law Office, Co. has the small-town approach you want, with the top-notch talent you need. With over 50 years of legal experience, a team that understands you and your farm’s unique needs and goals, and the skill needed to win in front of a Zoning Board or in the Courtroom, we are prepared to address every concern that your agritourism business will raise.
Let White Law Office, Co. focus on the regulations and rules behind the scenes, keep your focus on creating, growing, and expanding your agritourism business. Give Robert a call today in our Newark location, and see how we can help you transform your farm for tomorrow.
Attorney At Law