Every Family's Conundrum

Published on: 18:36PM Feb 23, 2010

From Legacy Moment eNewsletter (February 19, 2010)

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Fair versus equal is a recurring theme. It affects everything, and solutions are unique to each family. My next Leave a Legacy column in Farm Journal will again address this issue. In response to a reader’s question, I said this:

Q. You say equal isn’t fair and fair isn’t equal. Can you provide a specific example?

A. The nature of life is neither equal nor fair. Trying to alter that premise using ownership distributions may result in a complete loss of the family operation. The equal versus fair conundrum creates havoc in 100% of our succession planning cases…

While this polite reader thanked me for the commentary; I clearly missed the mark. He went on…

"Thanks for this extra commentary. I appreciate receiving it. It does not quite do what I am looking for, which I think may be a search for an objective way to measure fairness."

So, the real question remains. Is it possible to find a more equitable solution to the "fair versus equal conundrum?" Are there specific factors which can/should be taken into consideration when reviewing the contribution of each child in the operation, such as:

Tenure – The length of service an active family member may have dedicated to the operation.

Performance – A measure of the job performance of each person in the operation.

Professional development – Recognition of and reward for a person who enhances job capabilities through education, experience or vocational training.

Skills and abilities – Appropriate compensation for those who have developed a valuable specialization.

Please refer to the "Fair Versus Equal Exercise." Does it help to categorize and then quantify the contributions of each active family member?

 More on Equal versus Fair:

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