Preparing the Next Generation for their role in the family business can be a constant challenge for the current leadership of the business. Production, management and leadership skills are all critical abilities that need to be passed on to assure long-term success for the business.
A few years ago I had the privilege of working with the late Senator David Ford, a highly respected Indiana State Senator who was a true friend of agriculture and all-around great guy. We were on a state-level committee for an agricultural institute and were tasked with presenting to that institute’s Board of Directors a new approach to a key program.
A man recently opened his mail to find a note from his bank with a returned check marked “NSF” (for non-sufficient funds.) After hearing all the difficulties that banks are having these days, he called their accounting department and asked, “Is it you……or me?”
In a recent visit with fruit growers in southern California, their accountant mentioned that his standard for “when the recession is over” is when the Fed goes five Fridays in a row without closing a bank. Of course, that is not the technical definition of the end of a recession, but it is the definition that reflects a healthy, stable economic environment for his clients based on his 30 years of experience.
As we replace the wall calendar and the doodle sheet that covers our desktop, it is a good time to review procedures, policies and priorities.This is the time of year that our employees seem to be the most open to new ideas—and the most accepting of change.To maximize this opportunity, many operations schedule company-wide meetings to communicate with all the employees and provide a forum for feedback and discussion.
In preparation for this meeting, some of the items that could be reviewed are:
“Not On My Watch….”
A hunter was out for a short walk in the woods near his cabin and soon found himself being charged by a bear. He was running as fast as he could toward the cabin with the bear so close he could feel the heat of the bear’s breath. As he got to the cabin steps with the bear just inches behind him, he tripped and the bear, running so fast and so close, rolled right over the hunter and through the door of the cabin. The hunter got up, closed and locked the door to the cabin, and then yelled to his hunting buddy, “You skin this one…. I’ll get the next one!”
We know these people. The family with the siblings who can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on anything and end up bickering over who, even now that they are in their 40’s, got the larger ice cream cone at the State Fair when they were 8 and 10 years old. (Yes, that’s an actual argument that I heard…..)
These arguments are so common and predictable that the people who work with them can recite each person’s lines of rhetoric, including the hand gestures and voice inflection, as though it were the dialogue in a movie they’ve watched 100 times.
Jim Collins’ new book, “How the Mighty Fall” is a great read for any business going through difficult financial situations—and those who want to avoid them. Though the title may initially cause you to think, ‘That’s all I need, more negativity!” the book provides empirical information on the common steps that highly visible companies have gone through in their decline, and others that turned it around mid-crisis.
Professional Advice on Staying Positive: A couple of weeks ago when Ned Arthur and I recorded some podcasts for SwineCast, we mentioned that I am not a professional therapist or counselor. When working with clients I often provide some very personal guidance when asked, and use practical experience and logic to help them determine answers to their questions and concerns. I thought it might be good to hear from a professional on the challenge of “Keeping a positive outlook when under financial stress.”
Angeline Brechlin; APN, CNS is a career mental health professional and a lifelong friend of my wife and I. Here are her thoughts on staying positive:
I grew up with three brothers and three sisters, so my Mom had to have the wisdom of Solomon, and the ESP of The Amazing Kreskin. We rarely got away with anything. She was a substitute teacher for awhile at our local Jr. High School, and after the first class that she taught on her first day our friends were telling us, “She really does have eyes in the back of her head! We tried every stunt that we play on new subs, and she just laughed! She had her back to us, writing on the chalk board, and she knew who threw the spit wad without even turning around! She called them by name!”
Having an optimistic nature is a requirement for a person to even consider agriculture as a profession. The ups and downs of agriculture that are regularly served up courtesy of the weather, the markets, equipment breakdowns, and the occasional “stuff happens” are what we grow to accept as a part of the business.
When nearly all the challenges of agriculture align with a severely negative bias, and that negativity continues for a much longer duration than grandpa can remember, our emotional foundations start to weaken. For some, it is foreign territory and they become emotionally disoriented to the extent that they fail to function within their own established range of normalcy. The talkative ones go dormant, and the more reserved become even more distant. We see frustration where we used to see logic, and the visionary struggles to just get through today.