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Finance first: How can we hold better meetings?

Several farms use morning huddles effectively, but it depends on what problems you want to solve.

My dad and I farm together. We have two full-time employees, plus any number of seasonal employees throughout the year. We want to do better at having meetings. We aren’t doing that very frequently or well right now. Any tips on what good meetings would look like? — A.H., Iowa

First, what problem are you trying to solve? Farm meetings can be broken down into different categories, depending on the time horizon being considered in the meeting.

I know of several farms that use morning huddles effectively. Everyone gets together first thing in the morning for just five to 10 minutes to look at the day’s priorities. The huddle is simple, fast and informative, answering: What’s going on today?

The second category has a bit longer time horizon — a weekly meeting. Farm owners get together on a Friday afternoon, Saturday or Monday morning to debrief, and plan for the next week. These meetings last about 30 minutes.

Then you may have meetings that are more seasonal. Everyone gets together before planting or harvest, for example, to set expectations, review safety procedures or train on machinery.

You might also have an annual strategic planning meeting. Employees may or may not be involved in this, depending on the people and their roles. This meeting answers questions like: Where are we headed? What are we doing? What do we need to work on? What skills do we need to develop?

The view here is more toward the future — about five years out — which generally requires a longer meeting. You want to be answering questions like: What changes do we need to make? What are our risks? What opportunities do we have?

As farms get into these longer-horizon meetings, outside facilitators can help lead discussions. That allows everyone on the farm to focus on the content of the meeting, rather than the process.

Frye is president and CEO of Water Street Solutions. [email protected]

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