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One of speaker Norm Rubin’s universal laws of life goes like this: “ Make everyone a stakeholder. Involve everyone on your team in your farm; ask for their input and opinions. Recognize that all those involved in your business will build your business. When you make everyone in your network a stakeholder, whether they have a financial or emotional investment in your business , then they will produce like they have never produced before.”
Do you agree with Rubin?
Making decisions on the family farm can be emotional and frustrating if the decision making style is one of “benevolent dictatorship”. This style is listening to Dad’s direction, because it is “his way or the highway” kind of thinking. These farms do not have an inclusive model of decision making that listens to or respects all the team’s inputs.
Remember you have two systems in play here, the family dynamic and the farm business system. Here are some helpful overview questions to help the decision making process from NDSU Fargo’s Sean Brotherson:
1. What is the issue or concern that we need to make a decision about ? The father is typically keyed into operational decisions to keep the farm production high and profitable. The successor is thinking a bit more on the strategic side and wondering, “when do I get to be the manager and have ultimate control of the final decisions on this farm? “ Mom is trying hard to separate the family issues from the business concerns, but she seems to get caught in the cross-fire of angst from her husband and her adult son. Her key decision is to have a process or place to sit down to talk things through and get some action on making a decision for change ! The daughter-in-law is busy with her off farm job and wonders when she will be able to contribute her perspectives in the decision making process. She feels her voice doesn’t count because no one asks for her opinions.
2. What are the values that will guide us in setting goals related to work and our family? Values are the cherished beliefs that we hold. I have a values assessment tool that indicates my top 7 values as spirituality, intimacy, honesty, challenge, friendship , independence , and accomplishment. These are the drivers for the work that gives me meaning and purpose. When a farm family team has conflicting values, no amount of talking is going to “fix things !” As Brotherson states : “Families tend to be more happy and successful when they have shared values and goals.” If Dad is blind to the need to build relationship with time off for fun and family, he will continue to demand 100 hour work weeks, 24/7 and drive away the desire of the next generation to copy his workstyle. I agree with Brotherson, “The decisions we make, the way we use our time, and the things we spend money on are influenced by the values we have.” What are your top 7 values ? Compare your list to your spouse and your farm team members. What is negotiable for you and what is non-negotiable?
3. Resources to get what you want can be abstract or concrete. Sean Brotherson calls this the chart of “Important resources in work-family decisions”:

Resource Personal Interpersonal

Abstract resources Autonomy Responsibility

Personal growth Commitment

Personal esteem Quality of life

Level of stress Care of children
Stability
Stress on family

Concrete Resources Personal Interpersonal
Job satisfaction Family interaction
Education Home environment
Career development Providing
Work environment Housing/benefits
Money Time together
Skills Money

When you ask yourself about the resources you should consider in making the decision, you can reflect on Sean Brotherson’s charts above. Sometimes the personal (self-oriented ) goals will be more important that the family oriented or interpersonal goals. When the farm family can sit down in a respectful open conversation to discuss what everyone wants and why, amazing decisions can flow forth. If you can use the abstract and concrete resources to pin-point what exactly is your concern for your decision, you’ll have a much more fruitful conversation and actionable outcome.
Let’s take an example of the young son who has come back to farm with his parents. Armed with his college degree , a young wife and two small children he has great expectations of how things are going to go on the farm. When he discovers that his quality of life is threatened by excessively long work hours and no opportunity to be a shareholder or equity owner in part of the farm, he starts to get very frustrated at age 33. He is “seven years away from 40” which is a goal he holds for power and control of being the farm’s ultimate decision maker. When he is 40, dad will be 65. Dad still has a great need for job satisfaction and good family interaction. Can the young son find a way to prove that he can make good decisions by operating a part of the enterprise “on his own”, showing the financial success of the decisions he has made in that part of the operation ?
What resources are you drawing on to make good decisions? What other advisors or inputs could you access to create resources that would be helpful for better decision making on your farm team?

4. Draw a line down the center of a blank page and list COSTS and BENEFITS of the decision.
“Costs refer to a decrease in what a person values such as less autonomy or economic security. Benefits refer to an increase in those things that are valued, such as increased time together or better personal esteem .” says Brotherson.
Consider at what point the costs are going to outweigh the benefits of a certain decision. For example, working off-farm helps the cash flow, but the cost of vehicles, food, child care, clothing, processed meals, etc. may not be worth it. Women who work off-farm may be doing it more for personal satisfaction than economic gain !

Different families have different styles of decision making. Some autonomous folks may rest the ultimate decision with one family member, usually the one most affected by the decision. Other families have a more collaborative style whereby making the decision is shared jointly via consensus. On highly stressed farms the style for decisions tends to rest with the founder, usually the father or husband who is dominant in decision making.

I hope you’ll do some work on identifying your top 7 key values. I encourage you to challenge the decision making habits that may not be working for you, and engage a new approach. Also remember that procrastination in not making a decision to act, is indeed a decision.

END

Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach helps farm families get clarity, certainty and commitment to act on their farm’s future plans. Visit www.elainefroese.com. Buy Farming’s In-Law Factor for Christmas. Come say hello at the Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference in Brandon, Nov. 17th.
Call 204-534-7466 for coaching, speaker bookings.

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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.

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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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