Every individual involved in a family business should be making a contribution, feel valued and understand where they fit in the future of the operation. Unfortunately, if you surveyed all members of a farming family and asked their opinion, the results would often vary from concerning to heartbreaking.

While there are families to admire many do not communicate well.

Quite often the response is the ‘old fella won’t talk about that stuff, he didn’t get the chequebook until he was 50 and he doesn’t look like handing it over anytime soon’.

While it is important for those with the final say to understand there is a difference between leadership and control, at an individual, family and business level there is a fundamental activity worth doing.

It does not cost money and for our family has been incredibly helpful.

There have been two times we have had to change the schools our children attended, both in primary and high school. Not such a big deal in the city but when the primary school choice involves travelling 21 klms or 74 klms each way, you do have to think seriously about your decision.

It is human nature to judge others

Plus, as we found the discussion doesn’t end when the decision is made and you move on. Others will make a judgement and quite often share their opinion with you.

Interestingly, their opinion isn’t always about your situation. Quite often their comments are a reflection of their beliefs, circumstances and personal issues.

But that doesn’t stop them sharing and impacting you.

The important thing is to know yourself

Recently, we have gone through the process of outlining a vision and mission for our family agribusiness. We may produce organic beef however, what is important for us is not the commercial reasonings, but rather ‘why’ and ‘how’ we do business.

By clarifying and writing down our core beliefs, values and purpose the beneficial effects showed up in unexpected ways.

You see the second decision we made about a school was to withdraw our son from boarding school.

After much angst and deliberation we were able to make our final decision easily.

We stopped thinking about what everyone else said and focused on the values and core beliefs of our family.

We had a very unhappy son in contrast to a daughter also at boarding school who was thriving. We are fortunate as we had other options. They aren’t going to be simple but all we can do is try.

You do not decide your legacy

No one gets a say in how they will be remembered.

Your actions and the impact you have on every life you touch will be reflected in how you are spoken and thought about when you are no longer around.

This will sound harsh but there are reasons why some people have more visitors than others in nursing homes.

Actually, you don’t even have to think about that stage in life.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t admire families who have adult children who all genuinely enjoy spending time together.

A harmonious family group – imagine that.

Families are made up of individuals who have their own set of values and beliefs.

These change over time and are impacted by many different factors including peer group, relationships, personal circumstance and key influencers.

Families who can decide on a list of shared values are in a much better position to identify a shared vision and direction for the business. Individual family members are more likely to feel part of the business and work towards achieving set goals.

Families are complex

You really must experience a family farming business to truly understand the complexities involved.

Families can operate a profitable business, but if individual relationships within the extended family are not healthy, would you call that a successful family farming enterprise?

That would depend on your core beliefs and values.

A simple exercise to try

If you have never taken the time to write your list of core values, it is worth making the effort.

You may be able to come up with a short list of 5 straight away. Or you may start with 20, refine that down to 15, then 10 and then 5 to identify your core values.

Ideally, out of your list you should identify one or a few key values that is what you want to reflect what your business represents.

Own your outcomes

In a perfect world people would be supportive and not judgemental.

A decision would not need to be explained or justified.

Humans seek validation. Finding it internally is far healthier than the alternative.

Personally, for our family knowing our core values has made decision making a less complicated process and easier to explain. Using the boarding school example, we are comfortable explaining why we made our decision.

Our son was not happy and we could clearly identify where key aspects of the school’s procedures were not in alignment with some of our core family values. This made the decision to withdraw him simple.

For other families this would not be the case. They would have different core values and we are respectful of their beliefs. This means we can be comfortable with our decision without having a problem with the choices of others.