Strong family foundation crucial for farm success

Family dynamics can play a huge role in what occurs in the family farm business.

Understanding the family members  involved in the operations – their personalities; the ways they do tasks; how they react; their beliefs, wants and expectations – can help leaders work with their family, as well as prevent or resolve challenges and issues before, or as, they come up.

Overcoming challenges

Jim Soldan, a family business trainer in British Columbia, says those challenges can be countless.

“Although there are the common ones, there are myriads of ones that are specific to each family and these need to be plumbed,” Soldan says. “This takes time, skill and wisdom to flesh out.

“Overcoming the challenges, collectively as a whole family team, is what brings real success to both family and family business, or conversely, if not overcome, lead to ultimate disaster and extinction of the family and the family business.”

Soldan says to overcome challenges, there needs to be both effective communication and a strong foundation.

“Your family and family business survival hinges completely on effective communication, but you can’t have effective communication without a foundation, and you can’t have a foundation without effective communication,” Soldan says. “They need to be done in parallel.”

“You can’t have effective communication without a foundation, and you can’t have a foundation without effective communication.” Tweet this

Rely on each other

Collectively, each member’s role in the farm business, as in the family, ought to be to have each other’s backs.

“This can only come from a cultivated attitude of taking an active interest in each other’s life, knowing, quite clearly, their concerns, hopes, expectations, assumptions, priorities, beliefs, fears and values in regards to their personal lives, their own family, the family at large and the business,” Soldan says. “Within all of this, there is the necessity to embrace a positive attitude and compliance to the family business meeting and all the guidelines for its success.”

Match skills to jobs

Gordon Colledge, a farm advisor in Alberta, agrees it is important to understand family dynamics.

“Understanding the family that creates the conflict - or understanding the family that is trying to come together - becomes very, very important in a family-owned-and-operated business,” Colledge says.

He believes it’s particularly helpful in guiding those involved in the farm to take on the roles they are most suited for.

“It is neat when we can have people work according to their strengths, so when they sit around the table and all want to have a position, there should be room for that. They all need to listen and learn and support,” Colledge says.

Bottom line

Understanding individual family members in the farm business has several benefits, such as preventing or resolving challenges before they come up. Experts say each member’s role in the farm operation, as in the family, should be to have each other’s backs. 

Article by: Trudy Kelly Forsythe