Beekeepers are a very friendly and warm bunch of folks as I experienced them at their annual convention in Edmonton last month. They are dealing with issues that threaten their livelihood and like grain farmers, the weather really does a number on their business.

As I was flying over Saskatchewan I was really saddened to see the sod covered in so much water that it looked like muskeg, not the prairies I am used to. I suspect that many of you are anticipating a long winter of stress and indecision about how to get ready for next year, and how to face the financial crunches of 2010.

Buying gifts is probably not a fun activity when dollars are tight, so let’s consider some gifts your farm team needs that won’t cost money. They will cost you time and intentionality.

Here’s some ways to encourage the heart of your business:

  1. ACT: Start the conversations about the tough issues that are eating at you and keeping you up at night. When I speak about farm transfer and succession I hear from folks who are so worried about family tension, they aren’t sleeping, and that means they are not able to make well-rested well-conceived plans for everyone’s future. Mark a date on your calendar that you are going to set aside for personal reflection and another date to invite the farm team to have dialogue.
  2. Agenda of Concerns: Set aside some time to meet in a safe, neutral spot with an agenda. You need to be intentional about setting up a business meeting to take the pulse of your emotional climate of your farm team. Use a soft object like a stuffed toy as the talking stick, so that the person talking holds the toy and gets to speak, uninterrupted. I bet your accounting firm has a stress toy you could use as a talking stick. It’s a good idea to let your advisors know your big picture idea of getting more clarity for the vision of your business team. If tensions are high, you might want to hire a facilitator or coach.
  3. Journal: Figure out before you meet what you really want to accomplish. When I ask families what they want for Christmas, the usual answer is “I don’t need anything”, and then they are thankful for what arrives on the 25th of December. Be brutally honest with yourself. What do you really want as encouragement to the heart of your business? Do you and your spouse want the same things or different?
  4. Affirm: Do some performance appraisals of everyone’s work. Family members don’t get fired, but they typically cause lots of friction. Maybe this is the winter that the farm team signs up for a conflict resolution course in January, a day or two to figure out how to come to a common interest and united vision for the farm. Email me if you would like a copy of Jim Soldan’s one page performance appraisal which will get the conversation started. Employees may want verbal affirmation, or if they see “talk as cheap” they may prefer a financial bonus, or simple acts of service, like offering to do a task for them.
  5. Buy my new book: Do the Tough Things Right…how to prevent communication disasters in family business. This is 184 pages of practical tools to have checklists for your talks about fairness, finances for lifestyle needs, farm estate issues, forgiveness and respect and more!  Some folks won’t take the time to read, but those of you who are looking for a workbook to get things done right will appreciate this new tool that I have created for you.
  6. Celebrate what is good in your life with your family and your farm team. The beekeepers have a lot of fun and they work hard. They take time to network, share meals, and learn new ideas. They also bring their small children along for a holiday at the West Edmonton Water Park and Mall. Is it time to have a special meal together with your farm team to celebrate surviving 2010?

Hopefully you can look at ways to give gifts to your family farm team that doesn’t cost lots of money, they cost you time in setting aside planned events for courageous conversations so that everyone on the team gets what they really want this Christmas and into the new year of work.

Here’s a list of items you can tuck into the December pay slips:

-I appreciate you because….

-I am thankful the time this year that you helped me by …

-I respect your difference of opinion, and to that end I am enclosing a certificate for

“Dealing with Difficult People” in Winnipeg at Resolution Skills…

-Enjoy this restaurant certificate with your family.

-Take two days off next week and spend time with the folks you care about having fun.

-Be prepared in January to spend two days planning the work schedule for the next 3 months, and doing a written performance appraisal. We will meet on _______.

-Our next business meeting is scheduled for __________ and have your agenda items on the white board in the shop 4 days prior to the meeting.

Encouraging the heart of your business will pay huge dividends even when your business is suffering from the deluge of moisture we have experienced this year.  Check your attitude and sense of optimism for the future. If you think you might be suffering from circumstantial depression, make an appointment with your doctor to evaluate low-grade depression.

Thank-you to the many readers who drop in to visit me via email throughout the year to share the impact of this column and give me feedback.  When I sit at my writing desk and watch the farm activity through the window, I never know what words will spur you on to action or reflection. We are all in this culture of agriculture together, and let’s support each other to make wise decisions for the future for the good of all.

Be an encourager and bless your business.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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