Have the talk

Agriculture.com Staff 04/06/2010 @ 10:23am

Today, every ad you see for smartphones and computers has a pitch person telling you how much easier your life will be because of these tools. And Facebook, Twitter, and other networks do let you keep up with so much more than you could just a short time ago.

It's true, laptops and smartphones help you keep in touch with everything right from the seat of the tractor or pickup as well as you can when you're at home or at the farm office.

Earlier in the day, farm succession and transition specialist Don Jonovic addressed the same group about succession planning.

Many of Jonovic's remarks focused on preparing the family for business succession and making sure all members are on the same page and ready to work together to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The enthusiasm from the young farmers with their smartphones disappeared as Jonovic suggested another type of communication -- the kind that can't be done with the latest Blackberry, iPhone, or tablet computer.

It's the hardest communication many young farmers have to take on: Talking face to face with family members about the future of the farm business.

The succession talk will go smoother if the family first agrees on a Family Code of Conduct, Jonovic suggests. It should include these points.

  • Seek understanding before making judgments.
  • Challenge assumptions about each other's intent.
  • Treat each other as friends or colleagues.
  • Keep business and personal disagreements confidential and within the family.

Jonovic also suggests specific rules of conduct for family meetings. The rules essentially add up to keeping the conversation organized, civil, honest, and open without allowing disagreement or emotions to get in the way of cooperation.

Treat each other with respect, stay honest, and keep organized. Sounds simple, right? But when you're talking about the future of your farm business, nothing's ever simple and easy.

"Issues become so difficult (and they can be small issues). But when they come up -- kaboom!" Jonovic says.

That's why these steps and considerations are so important. Although they are obvious, when you're talking about your entire future, they aren't easy to put into practice. Often it is beneficial, Jonovic says, to bring in a respected nonfamily member to facilitate the first meeting.

These family meetings can provide comforting clarity to everyone connected to the family and the future of the farm.

As a member of the farm's next generation, give the family meeting the same enthusiasm you give your Blackberry or Facebook profile.You might be surprised how much easier this tough process can be.

Today, every ad you see for smartphones and computers has a pitch person telling you how much easier your life will be because of these tools. And Facebook, Twitter, and other networks do let you keep up with so much more than you could just a short time ago.

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