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Is your farm family-first or business-first?

1.5 min read

Balancing a farm business while raising a family requires hard work and dedication. And combine it with multiple generations attuned to transition planning, communication is even more key.

Best-selling author and executive coach David Irvine says governance, or how farm families work together, leads to the development of farm goals, which helps create balance.

Within a business, he explains, are three key groups: farm owners, employees and family. Each circle brings its own goals, and some of them overlap.

“We have to make sure that each circle gets their interests met,” Irvine says. “And the goals need to provide clarity about where each group is heading.” 

Those goals, he points out, should determine the business direction. And within the family circle, deciding if the operation is family-first or business-first, takes discussion. 

Deciding if the operation is family-first or business-first takes discussion

Organize everyone to come together, Irvine says, to discuss what each family member wants, what the business goals are and answer how the business can support the family. Using this style of holistic leadership creates an atmosphere to figure out what’s important to each person.

“What are we in business for? Don’t give me your mission statement. Give me your personal statement. Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of the business in your life?” 

But the issue many face is they prioritize the drive for production first, then squeeze quality of life into it. “We work for 20 or 30 years and say, Where’s my quality of life because the business runs my life.” 

Irvine challenges producers to instead set business direction by deciding the quality of life goals first, then put the farm business goals to work.

“Once we’re clear on our quality of life we can say, ‘Where does the business fit? And what do we need to produce to support it’?”

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