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Staff Structure in Farm Consolidation

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This post is PART B of a post on Staff Structure and "Span of Control" in Farm Consolidation.

Just as the military had a structure for the army (squads, platoons, company etc.), as you grow your business, you need an organized, logical personnel structure for your business. The purpose for a structure is for the supervision of day-to-day activities, to ensure appropriate employee reporting, measuring and monitoring accountability and to manage an expanding business. Without appropriate staffing structure, you will hit a ceiling that will limit your organization’s ability to grow.

The staffing structure we recommend at FamilyFarms:


Chart #1 is for a farm with only one operating unit and/or just beginning a formal personnel organization structure.


Chart #2 is for a very large farm that has multiple operating units. 

Most of the farm owners who come to FamilyFarms have their names in most, or all the organization chart boxes. Occasionally, one name is in every box. Even if they have never formally put names in boxes, in the FamilyFarms orientation with the help of our HR personnel, roles and responsibilities of each area are defined and names are assigned. Inevitably, as they assign capable personnel to the various areas, they enhance their ability to grow the operation, have more family time and, usually, improve family relations because people are no longer stepping on one another’s toes in their individual roles.

Let’s discuss these roles and responsibilities and what it means. When an individual has been assigned to one of the boxes (operations, grain sales, etc.) that person is responsible for that activity and others in the business should go through them as relates to the management of that activity or function. It is important that people stay in their boxes and roles/responsibility. If there is something they see in another person’s box that needs to be addressed, it must be addressed through the manager of that role and let that manager address the issue with the worker. That applies to managers of all six primary boxes, but also the GM and the Owners. If you want the organization to function responsibly and hold people accountable, then you must honor and respect each manager’s assigned duties.

The org structure shown in #2 is for a very large farm that has multiple operating units. Operating unit #1 might include 7-11,000 acres. Operating unit #2 might be in another state. #3 might be even farther away. Each operating unit has a manager, and those managers manage the employees of that unit. When you have enough operating units, you have an operating manager the unit managers report to. In addition, in figure #2, the support for the operating units as relates to grain sales, marketing, technology, finance and governance is provided by the support structure. The units do not have their own marketing, finance, governance, etc.

Clarify Owner Roles

The last part of this structure is to clarify the Owner roles. You may have multiple owners, dad, mom, brother, children, all involved in the operation. They need to understand the difference between being an owner and being a worker or a manager of a functional area or even the GM. Owners cannot or should not give direction to an employee in an operating unit or in other areas such as finance or grain sales, marketing, etc. As an owner, your responsibility is to provide input to the GM alone. He/she will decide how to apply or not apply your input to the organization. I want to say this in a direct way. Because you are an owner, you cannot give direction except through the GM. If your role is a worker in an operating unit, you cannot act like or give direction as an owner. In that operating unit, as a sprayer or planter worker, your role is to carry out duties assigned by the unit manager and you cannot play your owner card.

Because someone is an owner does not mean they have management capabilities. The organization has to put the best qualified and capable people in appropriate roles. Don’t confuse birthright with management right.

To summarize these three structure blogs, it’s important that the organization have structure, that the structure be honored and respected by all employees and owners, that you keep clearly in mind the span of control concept, and that management roles are defined, competent capable individuals are assigned to those management roles, and everyone is held accountable for carrying out their jobs. Some of you may think this is over-complicated. Some may want to make minor adjustments for your own use, and that is okay. But the fact of the matter is, this is the way business has been structured for decades, probably a few centuries. I encourage you to establish the appropriate structure for your business.

To learn more about consolidation...

If you are interested in learning more about consolidation and how FamilyFarms Group can help your family preserve your farming legacy, call us at 618-372-372-7400.

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Written By

Allen Lash

Allen Lash

Founder, FamilyFarms Group

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