Family Business Meetings–Helping Farms Communicate

by David Marrison

Tommorrow, I will be teaching at the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Convention about communication issues for farms in transition.  Poor family communications are at the center of many farm transition and estate transfer problems.  One way which farm families can improve communication is to hold family business meetings.  Chris Zoller of Ohio State University wrote a nice factsheet on tips for successful business meetings and it can be found at:

http://ohioline.osu.edu/bst-fact/pdf/3612.pdf

What other strategies have you found to improve family communication?

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2 responses to “Family Business Meetings–Helping Farms Communicate

  1. Not everyone responds to the words ‘let’s sit down and talk’. Not sure if I can adequately explain without writing a book. But anytime you are working together, shopping, etc., may be an opportunity to make a suggestion, ask for help, seek an opinion, express a hope, dream or dearly wanted happening. If you are the recipient of any of the above, it’s a time to ask for further details, then, should you not be ready to give an answer, truthfully say you will think about it and talk about it again at a given time such as the next week-end, etc. Should your family have regular meetings, these issues can be discussed and it will have given those involved an opportunity to think over the request rather than hearing it for the first time in front of family members. Casual conversations concerning family matters can lead to a invitation to talk to Mom at lunch or Dad during a coffee break or siblings during a family picnic. These informal talks may then become a more structured meeting. On a personal level, there have been requests made by my family members during work or leisure, (I know. . . .what leisure?) that have given insight into their closely held hopes and, though we don’t have family meetings, these insights have been addressed, some are answered, some are on-going works. Knotty problems don’t disappear, but some discussion on them occasionally makes everyone aware that it hasn’t been shelved and ignored. I purposely did not read the fact sheet of Chris as good ideas make you want to incorporate them in your letter. Trying to combine two ideas sometimes confuses the issue. Thank you.

  2. Rita–you are right on! Excellent suggestions. With sensitive subjects like succession and estate planning, it is never a good idea to drop the ball on the family in a meeting. For families that are struggling to communicate about their farm business, these meetings should start with topics that are not “lightning rod” issues. Concentrate more on business planning or business operation issues first until communication begins. Your suggestions are right on target!!

    Ok, what do others think? Ways you have improved family communication?

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