Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing on your farm?
The truth is that on a lot of farms, partners couldn’t tell you what their other partners are planning on doing the next day. On even more farms, partners ASSUME they know what their partners are doing and get upset when it turns out they really didn’t. Most of the time, when a partner does get upset, nothing is mentioned beyond disgruntled body language, but from time to time there is a blow up…with energy being vented both for the current situation and also the past ten incidents that weren’t ever mentioned.
Then, there are other farms where one partner lets everyone know what they are going to do AND what everyone else is going to do the next day. They come to the shop and tell specifically who does what, when, and even how. Being told what to do by your father or big brother every day when you are a grown adult in your thirties is what every little girl dreams of right?
Both management styles lead to problems and impacts profitability…in a big way.
It also leads to family Christmas dinner being borderline civil, not joyous. A year of a few miscommunications every week leads to very few words being said…or too many words being said after a few eggnogs.
My niche is that I help stubborn farmers work better together. A decade ago, I used to walk onto farms and try to solve everything with a few visits like a mediator. Now over Zoom, I get everyone to weekly make one improvement in how they work together and one improvement in each partner’s personal habits. In 52 weeks, that’s over 100 changes done in little steps that leads to big changes to how your farm works.
Why am I telling you this? The first thing I do nine times out of ten in my first meeting (as I’m getting to know the family) is get the family working better together by having a daily phone call. It’s such a simple thing that is easy to do and it leads to such big results. I think it’s SO IMPORTANT TO DO and it’s something easy that your family could start doing by yourselves tomorrow…
How do I do it? It’s not rocket science…
I get everyone to call into a conference call number at a set time every day. I prefer this call to be just before sunset instead of the morning because I’ve found everything to flow better the next day and a better night’s sleep for everyone.
I use www.gorillaconferencing.com. Get a free number just by giving them a call: 888-744-7166. It’s just 2.5 cents/minute and easy to use.
What my normal agenda for this phone call looks like:
- What time does everyone COMMIT to start and finish their day? Does anyone have any personal commitments (e.g., doctor appointment, kid’s baseball game) that impacts work?
- What happened in the previous day? What didn’t go as we discussed the previous night?
- Were there any human resource problems encountered and how do you want to handle it?
- What did we learn from our mistakes and how can we make sure it doesn’t happen again?
- What are each partner’s plans for tomorrow?
- Does anyone think that the other partners should prioritize other tasks first? Do they have any input on how things should be done? Speak now about concerns or forever hold your peace!
- What are we buying tomorrow? Does anyone want input or is everybody on board with that purchase? While at the store, is there anything else that should be picked up?
- What decisions have to be made by tomorrow that can’t wait until our regular (weekly) meeting?
- What is one task that each partner doesn’t want to do, but should be done for the good of the farm?
- Compliment one partner on a job well done today. Give praise, when it’s due.
Mind you, I make it mandatory to cover questions 5, 6, and 9 daily while the others will come up depending on the situation and day. Such as, if someone has to buy a water pump at the hardware store, then bringing up question 7 is relevant and should be brought up proactively.
Key rules you want to have in place for these calls:
- Everyone is on the call 30 seconds before they have to be, not 30 seconds late.
- Keep these calls to less than 7 minutes and fast paced. Speak like an auctioneer.
- Nobody dictates. Have everyone VOLUNTEER what they are doing and THEN get feedback from partners if they have different priorities/insight.
- Speak now, or forever hold your peace. Don’t be passive aggressive and hold it in only to bring it up in an argument.
- Once you set the plan, don’t change it unless the weather changes or it’s an emergency.
You’ll find that your partners will be more likely to finish their tasks (even the hated ones), instead of putting it off until tomorrow. If someone said they were planning on working till 5pm the previous day and took off work at 3pm, then you obviously have a discussion about it the next night. Accountability develops quickly.
The benefits I’ve found is that if you can have a plan for the next day prior to sunset:
- You will get 10-30% more productivity out of everyone’s time. Seriously.
- You will have fewer frustrations working with family and go home happier daily.
- Nobody will feel bossed around. Successors will start to think more critically about their use of time and will feel like real owners, not just glorified employees.
Another facet to this phone call is actually writing it down. For each family member to write down the group plan for the next day in a little notepad they keep in their back pocket can alleviate a lot of headaches. Yes, it does really help to have a list to cross off. But more importantly, it cements what was said and acts as a mental commitment between partners about the use of time. It’s important.
If you want a free notepad, just email me your mailing address, cell #, and number of partners: firstname.lastname@example.org
Time is money. That is obvious. What nobody realizes is that. . .
- If you can get a family learning how to better discuss the use of time daily, then communication will evolve. You’ll learn to prioritize together as a team and listen (not just talk) to each other more. Respect for what your partner has to say and what they are thinking will grow over time.
- If there is a succinct time/place to talk business, then farming with family becomes fun again!
- Over time, the family can have a more intelligent discussion about the use of monetary resources instead of egos getting in the way. I’ve used this method to turn around many farms on the verge of bankruptcy. If you can get a farm family more critical of how they use their time (time is finite, not infinite), they will start to think about monetary resources in a different way within six months.
If your family is a little bit stubborn, this is a golden way to take your family decision-making from good to great and eliminate many frustrations in your life.
Just try doing this for a month. What do you have to lose?