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Farmers are fond of hats. If you ask, you'll find that each one is reserved for specific occasions. They're rarely interchangeable. But when it comes to managing a family business, two hats compete for face time.
"As the boss in a family business, you have two hats: the parent hat and the leader hat," says Jolene Brown, a West Branch, Iowa, farmer and farm adviser. "The challenge is you can only wear one hat at a time."
Your family is at the heart of farming, and it's a powerful business asset. But it can be an Achilles' heel if you don't build the business on a foundation of shared goals and objectives, or implement written agreements to facilitate successful entry, succession, and exit.
Successful ownership, leadership, management, and succession are critical to multi-generation farm businesses.
"Farming can only be a way of life for those who treat it as a business," says Jolene Brown, keynote speaker for Generating Success: The Future of Your Farm Business Now. The conference, sponsored by Successful Farming magazine and Stine Seed Company, is set for August 11-12 in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Brown is a certified speaking professional sought out for her tell-it-like-it-is advice on strengthening family and business relationships. She promises to create a stimulating climate of on-site learning and to provide real-life tools that you can take home to finish the job. Challenging topics include:
- The Top 10 Stupid Things Families Do to Break up Their Family Business
- What Good Businesses Get in Writing
- Finding Good Farm Business Advisers
- Strategies to Communicate and Reward Farm Partners
- The Business of Hiring and Firing Family Members
Brown will be joined on the program by Jane Jenkins Herlong, a former Miss South Carolina who grew up working in her dad's tomato fields in Edgefield County. Herlong is a certified speaking professional who will share her uptown humor and down-home farm experiences. Following dinner, Herlong, a professional singer and recording artist, will offer a medley of big band classics and gospel favorites.
Don Jonovic, founder of Family Business Management Services, Cleveland, Ohio, and popular Successful Farming magazine columnist ("Can Their Problem Be Solved?"), will team up with Brown. His topic is "Generating a Succession Team: Planning and Pulling Together to Succeed as a Family Farm."
"Operating a family farm business is like crewing a raft down a rapids-filled river," Jonovic says. "It's not a good place for self-serving heroes, and there's no room for spectators. It's exhilarating and inspiring, but it can also be a life-or-death situation. All are in it together. The same is true on a family farm. If a family is going to reach its goals successfully, all members will have to understand and share objectives. And above all, they have to learn to paddle together in teamwork and harmony."
Jonovic will focus on the most important "rapids" faced by your family as it farms together, and he'll offer specific ways to navigate successfully. He'll guide a discussion of the complex challenges of moving successors through farm entry and into management to the current owning generation's farm exit.
"The ride can be a great one, worth every adrenaline-filled minute. But it's not for the unprepared, uncommitted, or untrained," he says.
In his more than 35 years of work with family businesses, Jonovic has encountered all of the obstacles to teamwork and farm succession planning: lack of time, lack of consensus, difficulty finding professional advisers, reluctance to discuss death and inheritance, mistrust of in-laws, and the divergent interests of off-farm heirs.
He encourages you to start the critically important process by bringing your multigeneration farm team to the conference, immersing everyone in stimulating sessions, and sharing your concerns and goals in a supportive environment.
Ownership and succession are only part of Generating Success. Jonovic will offer advice on business planning challenges, compensation issues, leadership training requirements, communication needs, and family unity essentials. He'll facilitate discussion on the technical complexities of financial management and transition by a panel of experts and answer your questions.
Interactive, No Lectures
Be ready to interact at this conference. Brown will help you glean business tips, value-added product ideas, and insights from one another as well as share concerns facing your business future. Before leaving, join her "Keepers and Questions" activity to identify your take-home value and to answer any questions.
Finally, look forward to learning the stories of many other successful family business leaders, including conference sponsor, Stine Seed Company.
"It will be fast-paced. But families committed to the future will want to jump on board Generating Success: The Future of Your Farm Business Now to anticipate and to prepare for what's around the river bend," Jonovic says.