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Many farm families are feeling a deep sense of guilt knowing they should be having business meetings, but they just don’t seem to get around to it. The key factor is understanding why you need to meet.

-Family council to explore how the family operates

-Succession planning

-Estate planning: wills, inheritance, fairness issues, legacy plans

-Advisers and suppliers meetings

-Human resources, operations etc.

Think about whose mouth needs to be moving at each type of meeting. Daugther- in -laws are typically silent when they want to avoid conflict, and don’t feel their voice counts. Son -in -laws may be the joint successors, and they also see the meeting process differently because their “fresh eyes” come from a different family style of communication. The other mouths you may or may not want to have open are the common in law partners of your farming children. Canadian law treats them as if “they were married” if they have lived together long enough. I treat partners and the in-laws as key players in the communication dynamic, and welcome them to voice their opinions at the meeting…with civility.

Is the meeting to navigate a family council for how you celebrate as a family ?

This meeting includes all family members whether they farm with you or not.  I know a family that meets annually with the farming and non-farm children to talk about the family vision and how the farm is doing. The non-farm kids use this as a chance to encourage the parents to let go of control, and applaud the efforts of the farming siblings. Go to www.farmcentre.com to order a copy of “Managing the Multi-generational farm” which is a great tool for distinguishing between a family council and a farm business meeting. It also helps for developing your family code of conduct.

Is the meeting to plan for the transfer of the business to the successor? This is a succession meeting and key players are the founders, successors, and their spouses or partners. The non-farm  heirs don’t need to be part of the initial succession planning meetings, but it is a good idea to include them in the communication loop as agreements are being reached. There seems to be a strong sense of entitlement in the country by non-farm heirs who believe they have a right to quota, cows and land !  As a farm communication succession coach I typically have conversations with all the children and include them in the initial key family meeting, so that they have a clear understanding of their parent’s intentions. Many folks can live with tough decisions when they clearly understand the “why” behind the decision.

Succession planning is a long process. One dairy family has the succession meeting monthly, which is different than the monthly operational meeting. Agenda items are collected on a white board in the barn office, and the administration officer farm family member keeps track of hot issues to discuss. Minutes of the meetings are emailed to all participants.

All family members need to have a voice in the estate planning meeting, as this is where the issue of fairness and inheritance expectations can be voiced. Ultimately the founders decide what they want for their estate plan, yet they will have a keen sense of what their children are feeling if the meeting gives everyone a voice. As a coach, I receive the minutes of the meetings to track the progress of the decision making and keep all parties accountable to act.

Another important meeting for grooming your successors is to include them in the meetings with your ag. lenders, accountants, and lawyers. Suppliers also appreciate developing a relationship with the next generation. I typically don’t meet with the equipment dealers, but when we are spending 6 figures on new iron I appreciate an informal update and expense justification from my spouse. It is a sign of respect for my partnership in the marriage and the farm business. (Read more about the women’s need to know at my blog “I’d just like to know…at www.elainefroese.com)

When you are encouraging mouths to open at your farm business meetings, you need to set down guidelines for respectful communication. An agenda before the meetings helps everyone prepare their thoughts. A talking stick, like my Beanie Baby® OX helps the holder speak their mind without interruption. The Ox is passed to the person who requests it, and all others listen.

Dr. David Kohl of Virginia Tech had a grad student discover that in over 400 farms across 6 states, the farm families that had regular farm business meetings were 21% more profitable. Communication that resolves conflict, deals with the people issues and pays attention to the financials of your operation is a wonderful thing.

I challenge you to see where your resistance to opening your mouth is coming from.

Is it your head not understanding the legal jargon or tax implications? It is perfectly fine to admit that you don’t understand, or need another explanation that makes better sense to you.

Is it your heart making you feel sad about letting go of power and control? Or is  your heart aching to find out what your daughter in law really feels about the family, but you are not at the point of trust yet, where she is willing to open up to you?

Is it your gut, your intuition guiding you with the impression that you just have to face your fears and do the meetings anyway?

Farm families can’t always manage meetings well on their own. That’s why the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors directory exists to help you find a facilitator to guide your discussions (www.cafanet.com)  I attend meetings in  person, on the speaker phone, and sometimes on SKYPE.

My bias is to include all the family as much as possible. One family who tried to meet without the spouses ended up with a huge conflict, and a tape recorder at the table held by an angry successor who refused to talk if he could not “tape for his wife”.

Decide why you need to meet. Meet regularly with great openness and a spirit of curiosity to find out what the other person is thinking and feeling, without judgment. I tend to be more inclusive of all family members, because I strongly feel that we all have communication filters, and it is easier for everyone to hear the message firsthand, than have it translated later by a  biased farming spouse.

The best feeling in the world is to have your intentions clearly understood with the love and respect of  the  entire family wanting to make changes for the betterment of all parties. Open mouths that resolve conflict respectfully are very freeing tools that you need to add to your business toolbox.

Have a great meeting.

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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