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Farm, Family & Finances

Part 2 - Farm, Family & Finances

Exclude or Include Family in Farm Business? How to Not Burn Bridges

In part 2 of our Farm, Family, and Finances series, Jolene Brown is tackling the tough subject of whether or not to exclude family in business matters, and if you do decide to exclude family, how do you do so without burning bridges.

We look forward to continuing conversations like these at our Women in Ag events.

Questions that first need to be answered:

  • What are you excluding them from? Ownership, employment, information?
  • Are you wanting their support for the business? (emotional, financial, off-farm income and benefits, or “help when needed”)
  • Is this “family” a spouse of someone employed in the business?
  • Are you excluding “family” from personal gatherings and interactions?
  • Why do you want to exclude them?
  • What might be their expectation?
  • If you were in their shoes, how might the decisions to exclude change your behaviors?

From the business perspective, your behaviors will be guided by operating as a “business-first” family. You have owners, leader/managers, and employees (sometimes it’s the same people with one or more roles-- sometimes they are family, sometimes not) you have hired for specific jobs/value. You set a direction (business plan); build the team to do the action; then evaluate, coach, praise, promote, correct, and terminate.  And above all, you communicate. You will have meetings with agendas: annual meetings, 1-hour monthly meetings with direct business employees and a focused agenda, and also the “morning huddles.”

So, if “family” is not employed in the business or has ownership, yet the relationships, behaviors and expectations of “family” would support or improve the business, they would be included in “information sharing,” not decision making. This might include an invitation for “family” to attend part of the annual meeting where reports are shared for a specific segment of the business and the past year’s results are given. If the business team is ready, they might include discussion of the next year’s business plan, including the “bones” of assignments to achieve goals.  Key advisors, risks protection and key players are identified. An overall financial summary of the business is given.

I’m on the side of inclusion for information sharing with in-laws who are not active in the business but married to someone who is a full-time employee in the business. This would take place at the annual meeting. Welcome their questions.

If the relationship and behaviors are detrimental to the business, do not include them in the business, but strive to always be pleasant and polite. They’re family. Talk a lot about children, weather, neighbors, community, school, etc. They choose their response.

Only you can decide the value (positive or negative) of exclusion and inclusion. Answer the questions at the beginning, and I believe your actions will become clear.

Jolene Brown, CSP, CPAE is a Professional Speaker, Farmer, and Family Business Consultant based in West Branch, Iowa. This is part 2 of a 4-part series inspired and derived from Cape Fear Farm Credit’s Women in Ag event.

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