Older farmer and middle-aged farmer in wheat field talking. 1540x800 Zoran Zeremski/ThinkstockPhotos

Part 2 in a series: Succession planning with values and culture

Values and culture are glue that holds family together.

Values create a culture and provide a cornerstone from which all other decisions are made in both a family as well as a family farm. We are not talking about moral values, but rather the basic principles that are lived and breathed each day. The founder created these values and built a successful farm from applying those values.

Knowing the values, history and culture are vital for the next generation to understand and embrace. Core values are slow to change and create the bedrock of who we are and how we operate. Our core values are our north star and yet each generation needs the opportunity to affirm and create their own set of core principles that will guide them forward. For example, millennials sometimes have different emphasis on work, play and family than previous generations. Isn’t this important enough to discuss before it creates tension and conflict?

As you define your core values ask yourself three questions:

  1. Would you confront an employee or family member if they didn’t demonstrate this value?
  2. Would you spend money or leave money on the table to uphold this value?
  3. Would you fire someone for violating this value, even if they were family or an otherwise excellent employee?

Core values

Core values can sometimes be difficult to pin down or define. Here are some examples of value statements that are a part of many operations. You can use this as a starting place in defining your values, but you may have some others too.

  • Loyalty – Underlying our culture is a strong connection between family and the employees.
  • Long-term Thinking – Profitability is simply the means to our primary goal of continuing the family farm
  • Trust – Trust is critical and we will trust everyone until proven otherwise.
  • Honesty – We believe in complete honesty and hold each other, our business partners, our family, and our employees accountable.
  • Family Employment – Employment in the family farm is a privilege, not a right.
  • Compensation – Every family member and employee will be compensated based on the value they bring to the farm's management and operations.
  • Thrift – Count the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves.
  • Lifestyle – We believe in living below our means so we can give to others in need.

In short, your core values are your “must haves.” Starting transition or strategic planning without understanding why the values were important often leads to more, not less, conflict down the road. Instead, create plans that support your values, culture and legacy. Don’t assume the values and culture are understood, but rather spend time exploring, understanding, writing down and committing to upholding your family farms values. Well defined core values can be the glue that binds your farm to the past success while propelling it forward.

Part 1 in a series: Start your succession planning with values and culture

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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