Beyond the Barn: Transitioning to the Next Generation – Kim Bremmer, Vita Plus

Posted on October 27, 2013 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Kim Bremmer, Vita Plus Loyal dairy specialist

After working with family farms for more than a decade, I truly believe nothing is more rewarding than building a business with your family.  However, it can also be one of the most challenging things you will ever do.  It’s hard enough to wear a “parent” hat, let alone a “boss” hat at the same time.  One of the most important things leaders can do is mentor their replacements. Everyone wants the legacy of the family business to continue, but how do you get it done successfully?

Farm transition involves transferring capital AND management.  An experienced legal consultant is important to setting up a viable capital transfer.  A conversation is not a contract. Family businesses typically have more things to consider such as siblings both on and off the farm, spouses’ influence, and equity disparity. Fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always fair.

But what about transferring management?

Being a part of a family business should not be a birthright.  Mentoring and training are important to ALL employees, not just non-family members. Too often, farms hire a family member that no one else would, which isn’t fair to the business.  Remember, it’s a lot more difficult to fire a family member than hire one. Quality applicants matched with exceptional work make a better business and a happier family.

Families that are successful in bridging the generation gap and transitioning their farms seem to do a few things consistently well:

  1. Set goals together with shared vision and values.
  2. Have a clear business plan.
  3. Have written compensation plans for everyone (including dollar values for benefits like housing, utilities, vehicles, fuel, phones, computers, insurance, etc.).
  4. Have written job descriptions WITH standards.  Use a business responsibilities chart to detail exactly who is in charge of what.
  5. Continually focus on effective communication with all team members.  Contact your Vita Plus consultant if you are interested in programs such as Insights® training.

Some of my favorite business-first family advice to share is from Jolene Brown, certified speaking professional and family farm business consultant.  “Accepting responsibility and using common courtesy are the lowest cost and highest return in any family and family business.” The most important two-word phrases you can use are “I’m sorry, you’re right, I’m wrong, thank you and great job.”

It’s no secret that working with your family through a transition and trying to bridge generational gaps can be challenging, but the time and hard work invested in building your family business will yield a lifetime of priceless rewards.

Category: Farm business transition
Starting Strong - Calf Care