Don't Ditch The Old Man's Truck!

Every farm kid has the common sense to not fight for the wheel of a truck as it’s going down the dirt concession at 80 miles per hour.  Yet, on most farms there is a struggle for control of the wheel and quite often it puts the family’s business vehicle fishtailing on the gravel road. Too often, it puts the “truck” in the ditch.  

Is the tension within “your family vehicle” is starting to build up, like a long family vacation, what are the problems that your family is facing:

Have you mapped out where you are going and how you are getting there?  Do you have a common plan and is everyone actually working from it? 

How do you know if your going the right speed and if your oil is running dry?  Do you have a dashboard of critical business metrics?  Do you know your Return on Assets and the critical metrics, which impact ROA instantly? 

Can you fix your truck for minor repairs (ex. Flat tire) on the side of the road easily?   Does your family have the “tools” to fix strategic problems easily? 

Is there enough gas in the truck to get you to where you need to go?  Does your family members have enough “inner drive” to succeed?

Is mud getting on the windshield, blurring your vision?  Are emotional issues turning trivial things into friction points?  Can you see the situation clearly?

Brakes?  How do you stop the vehicle before it hits wildlife?  How do you avoid major interpersonal problems and frustrations before they occur? 

Are you “peeing into a mayonnaise jar” or are there enough rest breaks for everyone?  Is there a good work/life balance to everyone’s satisfaction? 

Does everyone know how to drive the truck safely or is it just “the old man”?  Are you leaving management transition to the last minute and kids are unable to manage the operation 10 years down the road because of this? 

The transition from a sole proprietor (Do what Dad says) to a multiple partner, multiple generation and often multiple sibling business relationship is tough.   The challenge isn’t the division of assets on paper but how do you jointly manage the business and gradually transition management control.  Why do families fight for the steering wheel of control?  For each family, its different and there is no magic answer.  Yet again, the stories are almost predictable within seconds of walking into a farm kitchen because most families share common problematic themes. 

For driver’s education, the issues aren’t training the individual on technical matters but overcoming emotional issues.  It’s the same with farm succession. 

The question is how can you get everyone’s “head straight” so that fears and emotions don’t get your family vehicle stuck in the ditch?