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You Must Operate as a Business-First Family

Farm families attending the 2019 Commodity Classic reveled in the advice of a person who has been likened to the Dr. Phil of agriculture.

Jolene Brown delighted attendees at a Main Stage presentation with her humor, but she also offered sober advice for farm family businesses. “Good will in a family operation is huge and extremely important,” she pointed out. “But it can be destroyed in a minute with a harmful statement. And once destroyed, good will is very hard to get back.”

Brown, who has authored two books on family farm relationships and business planning, urged family farms to operate as a business-first family as opposed to a family-first business, “that is unless you are doing this as a hobby,’ Brown explains. “You have got to get the business end of the operation right and thriving in order to have a business for the family. For productivity, for profitability, and most of all for peace of mind, you need to make the business first to ensure a future for the family in the business.”

Brown revealed that at least 95% or more of conversations or emails she receives, “and we are averaging 20 a week, come from operations that are being run as a family-first business. Those people are operating today and in the future on a hope, habit, tradition, and assumption. And friends, sometimes that does work out. But I call that luck.”

When farms run those operations in the business-first family mode, what you are saying to family members is, “We love and honor you so much that we want to get the business right,” Brown adds. “Because if you do not operate that way, my friends, at the end of the day, you may end up with neither family nor business.”

Brown observed, in the audience at the Commodity Classsic, that there sat some of the best people in agriculture. “You are superior at weeds, and seeds, and breeds, and feeds, and technology, and money, and machinery, and marketing. But don’t ever forget that It is the people who do all of that production.”

You can get more information about Jolene Brown, her books, and the farm family counseling services she offers by going to

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