Lessons From The Field
Over the years and with enough observation, general themes become apparent can become learning lessons for your family farm. Striving for continuous improvement is the dominant characterization of most financially and organizationally successful companies. Consider the following thoughts and standards and see how you and your family-owned business compare.
So What Is Your SCS?
Stimulating – Your vision statement must lay out an image for your family business that is exciting, thought-provoking and inspiring. If it can be achieved in a year or two, maybe it’s not so challenging and is really just a target or an objective. Think about Kennedy’s vision of getting a man on the moon. Not just build a rocket or get a rocket to the moon. It was a MAN ON THE MOON! I would bet that was kind of inspiring and motivating for all the people involved in that project. Obviously you may not have the resources for such a grand vision. This exaggerated example was simply to show an extreme example of a clear vision statement.
The communication and establishment of the vision begins with ownership and senior management and travels to all levels of your family farm business to become a regular, top-of-mind concept for your entire organization. Once it becomes engrained, your vision becomes the stimulus for innovation, improvement, ingenuity, resourcefulness, effort and order that might propel your family business and the entire team to accomplish great things. When family farms and family businesses come together around a simple, clear and stimulating vision statement it can make all the difference in almost all areas of your business.
Is it that crystal clear to you, your family, employees, community, vendors, etc. why your business exists? Is everyone on the same page…without hesitation? I didn’t think so. This is foundational stuff and takes a little thought and effort to seriously contemplate.
To help get you started, let’s look at the necessary first component required for developing your compelling vision statement for your family farm business. The reason for your business. Huh? Remember, a well-crafted vision statement serves as a guide to help everyone and anyone to understand what business you are really in beyond just the product or service you provide.
“Enhancing your family’s well-being and the financial health of your business.”
Oh, I like it! Wait. It’s already taken. It’s the purpose for my business advisory services. Ha. It’s pretty clear, short and sweet…don’t you agree?
So, what business are you really in and why does your family business exist? Try not to just rush through this exercise for the sake of checking it off some list of things to do. This is a core element in what will become your vision statement: the foundation upon which your entire family-business operations, policies, decision-making, investments, etc. are all derived from. Once you have clarified, on paper, the core reason for your family business’s existence, you will be ahead of 70% of your industry peers and developing a stronger foundation for your continually successful family business or family farm.
Taking time away from the endless chores and things to do is sometimes difficult, but it might help to understand that this isn’t an exercise in feel-goodliness, warm-fuzzy, feel better inside, mushiness, but rather has real-world, bottom-line, operational and human capital implications that are just plain good for the long-term success of your family business. The development of these various statements are used to:
The downside of not having a vivid picture of the future for your team to visualize often results in team members that are not fully engaged in their work. You’ve seen it. Yeah, Joe is a good guy, doesn’t really do anything wrong, but doesn’t really do anything extra, above and beyond the minimum. Joe may be doing good things on a daily basis, but he is not inspired because he has no passion for pursuing a larger vision that brings out the best in Joe. How can he? It’s not his fault. You as the business leader may not have provided it Joe.
People naturally want to be part of a successful team; a team with a vision of the future for achieving something great. All they simply need is for you to take the time to develop a vision and then share it with them and help point them in the right direction on how they can contribute to pursuing your vision.
So, how do you create a compelling vision that inspires passion in people? The following characteristics can be used as a reference to help point you in the right direction:
As your family business’s leader, when was the last time you reflected on your vision for the future? Do you have one? Is it clear to you? If not, there is no way it can be clear to anyone else. Is it written down? Do you have some work to do? I hope this helps illustrate some compelling reasons you might want to take the time to develop a clear vision statement and some ideas on how to get started. If you would like a worksheet or template to help you develop your own vision statement, please email me for a copy.
Prioritizing your goals can help ensure that the most important goals are focused on first. Listed below are a set of questions that your planning team might consider for each goal to help identify those that should be the highest priority.
The process of sitting together and discussing everyone’s goals almost has as much value as achieving the goals themselves. It’s the process that often helps families best.
BEWARE! It is common to have some disagreements (Well…duh Jim!). As the business leader, your role is to help lead the team toward gaining mutual agreement and commitment on something as simple as the top five priorities for your business. If that cannot be accomplished, you and your business will likely face serious challenges in meeting ANY of its goals.
When all team members of your business know and understand the top goals for your business, and everyone is working in unison towards those goals – Oh baby. Look out and have fun!
...and Creating an Action Plan
Once your farm ownership and management team have worked through a process of identifying their individual goals for the business, it is time to bring them all together into your overall business and succession plan for your farm business. If you don’t already have them, this is the PERFECT time to begin conducting strategic business and family meetings.
The meetings don’t have to be anything too formal, but they should include the current and future core management teams of your farm business. Everyone could take time to share their individual goals. It may be surprising to some people how many goals they have in common. Sometimes, it is helpful to have a neutral third party help conduct the first few sessions to help break the ice and create a less intimidating environment for younger or less experienced family or business members.
REVIEW: The last several posts have included information on developing and sharing long-term and short goals and how generational differences in goals and family, especially in-laws, can have an impact on your business. For a review or primer, check them out.
A logical next step is to identify those goals that are in common and those that are significantly different. Some key questions could then be asked:
For Common Goals:
"A goal without a plan is just a wish."
- Are they all in the same time frame? (Is one person’s short-term goal another person’s long-term goal?)
- Do all members have the same priority for the common goals? How would each person rank them?
- Who will be the key person or persons involved in deciding upon and/or implementing each of the common goals?
For Unique Goals or those that are not the subject of common agreement among the family:
Long Term Planning
North Coast Ag
Standard Operating Procedures
Thought Of The Day
Winery Benchmark Programs