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January 2009 Archive for Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

The Family as Business Partners

Jan 30, 2009
In the family operation, hiring is often based on, “We’ll find a place for you…” Then we fall into familial roles and patterns of behavior where Dad is authority and son/daughter is the obedient child. The communication link in a family business often breaks down in the roles we play and the comfort zone of family relationships – the zone where dad is always Dad and children are always kids. Parent is authoritative; child is obedient.
If the goal is big business (an operation that is bigger than self) then the solution involves acting like big business. Assume new roles and responsibilities. Use job descriptions and employee handbooks. Create salary schedules and delineate benefits. If parents and their children are co-owners they must act like business partners. If parents and children are co-owners, I suggest – “no permission/no request” decision making authority – base authority on ownership percentages or managerial roles. >>

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Communication in the Family Business

Jan 28, 2009
Recently, I had the privilege of making the luncheon address to the participants at the Young Farmer Program in Chicago.  This first-ever meeting was an adjunct to the well-attended 'Top Producer Seminar.'  For the attendees it was an opportunity to learn best practices for business, production and management. They networked with peers and interacted with some of our nation's brightest young agribusiness stars.

The attendees were not there because of what they do, what they know or what they are; rather they were there for what they aspire to be!  As I spoke with the audience, I was aware that these young people are the future of this industry, of our rural communities and of their families' operations.  To succeed in these three areas of their lives requires a heavy dose of good communication skills.

During an interview several years ago, a highly respected family business owner proclaimed that, "Communication is the heartbeat of the family business."  Back then, Dave was an agribusiness owner whose operations covered several western states.  The business structure involved his father as financier, one brother who ran the day-to-day operation and another who managed the shop.  Dave was a hardworking 'bootstrapreneur.'  As the visionary for, and founder of, the business he invested sixteen hour days, six and a half days per week - building a multimillion dollar enterprise.

The middle brother was a hard worker, willing to invest extra hours and dedicated to a 'service first' attitude.  Dave's youngest brother lacked the same work ethic and level of dedication.  He came to the family business from a corporate job where eight hour days and five day weeks were sufficient to generate a paycheck.  He clocked in at eight, rarely worked past five, and his weekends were always free.  He was good at his craft, but he wasn't committed to creating the vision Dave thought they shared:
'building a world class organization. >>

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More on communication in Friday's post.

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