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Family Business Matters: The Founder's Paradox

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TFF Admin

I cannot tell you how many times I have observed from afar family farms in which some function and transition well to the next generation but more than a few have had serious issues of various sorts trying to work the positive involvement of all the family members into the farming operation.  Some were able to work through the various family issues........some were not.  Those that did not, usually did not last very long after the founder retired or passed away.  Below is an excerpt from Progressive Farmer on this topic:


Many family-farm and ranch owners define one aspect of success as the transition of the land and operating business to the next generation. "The opportunity for my kids and grandkids to come back to the farm" is a frequent refrain when I ask about the hopes and goals of the senior generation.

Another goal often mentioned immediately thereafter is for the next generation to "get along" and "work together." I often ask which goal is most important: "If you had to pick, would you rather see the business intact but experience family discord, or see the land and business sold in hopes that family members have better relationships?" In my experience, most say they want the relationships but often end up with a business or family full of conflict.

Neither option offers a guaranteed outcome. Passing the business to children does not guarantee they will be successful operators just as selling the land and giving them cash does not guarantee they will enjoy spending time together. But, neither are the two goals mutually exclusive; some families achieve both. In many cases, it is difficult to achieve the twin goals of business succession and great sibling or parent-child relationships. Why?


As much as family members share DNA, a similar upbringing or common family values, individuals in a family can be remarkably different. Personalities, conflict styles, political views, cognitive skills, goals, financial skills, communication preferences, egos -- all of the differences cause some to wonder if they really grew up in the same household. When you place those differences in close proximity (working together in the family business), there is bound to be friction. Even when family members don't work together, the differences can distract from efforts to build relationships.

To read the rest of the article:



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