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Dad’s return displaces the livestock manager — his daughter

Can their problem be solved?

The Problem (submitted by N.L.)

Several years ago, my parents decided to diversify the farm operation and invested in a livestock enterprise. Since my dad had an almost full-time job away from the farm, my parents (and the banker) asked me, and I agreed, to learn to manage that part of the farm business. It’s a good complement to my off-farm job, and I’ve had full responsibility for managing this livestock enterprise. I put in a lot of hours and productive systems, have been paid well, and added consistent profitability to the farm. Dad helps with chores when he can.  

Here’s the problem. Several months ago, Dad retired from his off-farm job intending to manage the enterprise full-time. We are having a lot of conflict: what I do, the hours, the transition. Now Mom and Dad want me only as an hourly employee “when needed.” 

How could I have been so naive? All that work was for nothing. How do I talk to Dad and Mom about my concerns?

The Solution

Reality #1. All that work was not “for nothing.” You have been paid well. You learned new skills, had a financial benefit for your family, and gained self-respect for your results. I have no doubt your work was paramount to the success of the business today.  

Reality #2. There’s a lot of power and control with their 100% ownership. They now want a new business model when it comes to your employment in the livestock enterprise. Dad is saying, “I’m now here full time and the business doesn’t need two managers. I’m the owner. I appoint me.” (Please note: This may or may not be best for the business, but it is their decision.)

Reality #3. No job description, compensation package, or transition assurance was ever clarified in writing.

Reality #4. Just because you don’t hold the power of ownership, it doesn’t mean you are powerless. You still can make choices.

The Action:

Check your feelings of resentment or entitlement. You were paid well, so there is no sweat equity to consider. You don’t even have to like what the owners have planned for the business but before deciding how you want to proceed, as one “invested” in the business, you certainly can ask questions.

  • “Does this change of only wanting me ‘to work when needed’ start today?”
  • “Are you going to honor the established compensation for my past work to date?”
  • “Please clarify for me, what does work hourly, ‘when needed’ mean?”
  • “What would be my responsibilities?”
  • “Will there be new boundaries for us since I’d be labor, not management?”

Examples to help further clarify:

“If I see a problem or concern beyond labor, I’ll inform the manager (Dad) and he’ll be responsible for correcting it. (The manager would be responsible 24-7 for any alarm calls.)

“Would you expect me to teach you the processes already in place?

“Will my hourly wage reflect the experience and loyalty given to this
enterprise?

“If you expect me to cover for you for an extended time (e.g., vacation), would my hourly wage increase?

“Would you consider a written agreement that if you ever want to sell this livestock enterprise, I’d have the first option to purchase?”

Once you have the answers to these questions, you then have the power to decide to work under their terms and honor the boundaries you’ve agreed to, negotiate different terms, or walk away. 

If you don’t receive acceptable answers, then be grateful for the money you earned and the lessons learned. You can still be family, but you will not be working together.

Jolene Brown is a professional speaker, author, farmer, and family business consultant. She shares her passion, experience, and fun-filled spirit with farmers and ranchers across North America. Her tested business tools provide leadership and management solutions for the people who feed, clothe, and fuel the world. jolenebrown.com

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