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farm brothers undiscussabull image

One of the bulls in the middle of the farmhouse that we need to chase after is the undiscussabull of “my brother would never agree to that.” These transition conversations are as fresh as a newly minted cow plop, and they stink, too. However, it is time we faced the issue of disagreement among farm brothers and what it does to farm transition plans. Only when these issues are worked out will plans move along smoothly and successfully.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “Elaine, my dad is great to work with, but he won’t stand up to my uncle.” 
  • “My uncle is a lone ranger and would never allow me to buy his farm shares.” 
  • “Things would transition a whole lot easier on this place IF I could get my parents and my uncle to the table to talk and make some concrete decisions.”

Are you that uncle? Or do you know that uncle? Either way, you are in the right place, because today I am sharing advice on how to reframe your thinking to become farm brothers who can work together to create the right transition plan.

[Tweet “When #farming #brothers disagree, it can be especially difficult for the younger generation that wants to take over the farm. These tips will teach you how to reframe your thinking, so the #farm #transition goes smoother.”]

6 Tips for Dealing with Disagreeing Farm Brothers

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If you are one of the farm brothers who do not see eye to eye – or caught in the crossfire of the disagreements – I encourage you to do a reframe of your thinking. Don’t play the victim card. Be direct, open, and take action. Stop the mindset of “we have an uncle problem” and change it to “What would you like the outcome to be instead?”

Here are tips on switching to outcome-based thinking:

1. Figure Out How to Move Forward

farm brothers how to move forward

Both farm brothers, the founders and shareholders, are aging. Is retirement a helpful word, or would “re-invention of roles” be a better target? What does a good day on the farm in the next three years look like to your dad, mom, spouses, and your uncle? In order to let go of something, we need a really attractive offer to move toward.

2. Do Your Research

What is the dollar expectation for buying the uncle out? Do your research with your lender, find out what you could cash flow to give a debt payment schedule to purchase the uncle’s shares. “You don’t know my uncle, Elaine. He would never sell.” Start planting the seeds of opportunity by asking questions with curiosity. Say “I’m just curious, is there a timeline in your head of when you would like to start transferring your shares?”

3. Make No Assumptions

Instead of assuming, ask for clarity of expectations. Being clear with your expectations is kind. Make a list of all the things you would really like to know from your uncle’s perspective, and practice saying those sentences out loud. Write them on an index card and pretend they are notes for your ASK speech.

4. Dig into Details

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What would have to happen to know that you have actually got what you truly wanted? Create possibilities here and list out the best-case scenario. “Dad and I agree that we will farm together, and I will be clear that I do not want to be a business partner with my uncle.” And then pave the way for that to happen. For example: I will have my debt servicing capacity lined up so I know what I can afford to pay and over what time frame. I will do pre-work with our accountant to make sure we have the most flexible business structure for the next 20 years.  I will talk to a farm management specialist to be sure that the benchmarks for decision making that I am affirming are reasonable and true. I will get better at sharing my emotions and creating solutions to do conflict resolution well.

5. Get a Business Plan

How can you share your business vision for the type of farm you want to invest your future time, energy, and labour towards? Formulate a one-page business plan to be concise and clear about your dreams, goals, and vision for the farm.  Plan on paper because the act of writing it out starts your brain working in the right direction subconsciously.

6. Have an Exit Strategy

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What’s your exit strategy? If the uncle is stubborn and refuses to negotiate a deal, then are you willing to seek another career on a different farm as a joint venture partner with a non-family member? “Elaine that would kill my dad.” Oh, but your dad is not willing to stand up for what he believes is the best business decision? Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, would be a great resource to scout out what to do when things don’t work out if the farm brothers cannot somehow come together on an agreement.

What stories are you telling yourself about the farm brothers who are not seeing eye to eye? Do they have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the other? Is the conflict avoidance so great that you have lost hope of even having an honest, open conversation to ask for what you need?

Perhaps it is high time to bring in the family communication facilitator, a coach, or a trusted advisor who can prepare each player privately to come to the table for some robust decision making. Letting the conflict escalate is guaranteed to make you sick and threaten the demise of your marriage.  The stress of unresolved issues and thwarted dreams is killing agriculture.

Pay attention to the fact that painting the uncle and your dad as “poor communicators” is just excuse-making. These farm brothers are men who are making choices on how to run the farm every day, even if it’s habitual, and they don’t express how or why they are making certain decisions. If you want to have the designation of main manager by the time you are forty, what is your plan and approach for getting what you want? It’s not going to happen unless you get better at conflict resolution as a business risk management strategy. Grab the bull by the horns, do your debt servicing research, and call a farm strategy meeting.

Every person needs to be treated with kindness and respect. You get to choose your response to the resistance from farm brothers that you may face at the head level (not understanding buy-sell agreements), the heart level (emotions around letting go of ownership, pride ), and the gut-level (I don’t trust people to deal fairly). Where is your uncle’s resistance to your goal of having some equity coming from?

You can do this. Focus and execute.

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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