Working with your family all day every day is not an easy task. The key to running a successful business while maintaining family harmony is finding the right balance between business needs and family needs. The most important thing to remember is to keep business issues at the office and family issues at home.
To build and maintain strong family and business relationships on the farm, take the following steps:
Have regular family meetings.
Conduct monthly family meetings. Establish an agenda for each meeting, roles for participants, and rules to ensure only business matters are discussed. Make sure all family members follow some basic rules for productive communication:
- Give your undivided attention to the person who is speaking. Focus on what they’re saying rather than thinking about how you will respond.
- Repeat back what you heard the speaker say to ensure you heard them correctly before you respond.
- Once you know that you fully understand what was said, then share any helpful opinions or advice that you have to offer.
Following these guidelines will encourage open lines of communication and give everyone an opportunity to be heard.
Keep emotion out of business decisions.
When making decisions, avoid letting your emotions get in the way of clear thinking about what’s best for the business. When conflicts arise—and they almost certainly will—be sure to focus on the problem you’re looking to solve, not the person whose opinion you disagree with. Interpersonal conflicts should be addressed separately so everyone is clear that the only issues you’re discussing revolve around what’s best for the family farm. In case it becomes necessary, one family member should be designated the final decision maker; if consensus simply can’t be reached, a decision will still need to be made.
Clearly define roles and responsibilities.
In addition to designating a final decision maker, other roles should be clear to all family members. Everyone should understand who has what degree of authority over each aspect of the business as well as what responsibilities and time commitments go with that authority. Who has purchasing power for your family farm? Is it one individual, or do different people have responsibility for making different types of purchases? How is accounting handled? What needs to be taken into account when decisions are made? Ensuring that everyone fully understands their roles, responsibilities, and limitations will help your operation run smoothly.
Determine the succession plan.
What plans does the next generation have? Do they want to come back to the farm, or do they have other plans? If they aren’t interested in running the farm, then are there other family members, such as siblings, in-laws, spouses, or cousins, who are interested? The more you can determine about your succession plan, the better. If you don’t ask the questions, you will be making assumptions that could break the family in the future, so think before you act or assume!
Spend time together as a family.
To keep your family strong, it can’t be all about business. Set time aside to just be a family. During this time, don’t talk about the business; business talk is for family meetings or in the office. Enjoy each other’s company, work out interpersonal issues, and simply appreciate all that you’ve built together.
FamilyFarms Group provides valuable advice and support to family farms like yours. Learn how we’ve helped other families build thriving businesses while maintaining strong interpersonal bonds by taking a look at our case studies. To discuss how we can help you, click the link below and request a fee needs assessment.