Successful family ranching operation requires leadership
February 18, 2012
“Think about the family relationships you have, where there is synergy, trust and mutual respect,” said David Irvine, owner of Leader’s Navigator and a world-renowned authority on human dynamics in business leadership. “On the farm, there are three components including: land, money and people. I focus on the people. What’s the point of having a family business? What does it take to make it successful?”
These were questions asked by David Irvine, who was featured on a recent agri-webinar.
“Being successful in agriculture today is more than production and hard work,” he said. “In this challenging economic climate, ranchers have to be innovative, build trust, and provide leadership in every aspect of your business. Producers have to create an environment in your family and business where people communicate openly and respectfully, have a chance to be their best, and unleash the potential of every member of your team. But where is your roadmap? Where are your tools?”
Whether it’s a corporate business in New York City or a small family farm, there are certain strategies Irvine said need to be applied to every business structure including:
1) Build trust.
2) Sustain high performance.
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3) Engage people in meaningful ways.
4) Build loyalty and morale.
5) Deal with change.
6) Develop leadership capacity.
7) Implement accountability.
8) Find personal balance.
“It’s important to understand the vital importance of human dynamics in a family business,” he said. “First, assess the level of respect and goodwill in the family. Make building trust your number-one relationship priority. Spend time listening, especially to emotions. You don’t necessarily have to fix everything right away; just listen.”
Irvine said it’s important for families to establish traditions for ways to communicate with one another.
“Have a process for spending time building relationships on a consistent basis such as family councils, scheduled one-on-one connections, family traditions and rituals and scheduled holidays. When, there is a high-level of deposits in the family, meaning you have paid the price to work together and connect, then you can expect a higher level of return on the production side.”
Putting family first will help members to work well together, ultimately creating a successful business environment to be a part of. For the CEO of the operation, it’s important to be a leader and not just the boss. Irvine explained the difference.
“A boss manages, controls and enforces,” he said. “The boss tends to get things done through ego, using the power of knowledge to coerce his employees or family members. He works within an existing paradigm. Meanwhile, the leader mentors, influences and encourages. He inspires others through humility and vulnerability. Intuition, connections, energy and passion are the keys to his success. He isn’t afraid of change.”
Values, trust, mutual goals and utilizing the unique talents of family members are important elements a leader can use to get the family on the same page.
“Everybody has a difference and has a gift; there is a difference between doing chores on the ranch and making a contribution to the ranch,” he added. “Every person wants to contribute and offer their talents to make something better. We often push kids away because we can do it better ourselves. Kids learn the value of hard work on the ranch; by having responsibilities, they build their work ethic and talent-base. Use the individual’s unique talents and have them contribute to the ranch.”
An important question to ask is, What is the purpose of your business?
“The purpose of the family ranching business needs to be transferring values to your kids,” he said. “You can tell when you’re successful, when you’re grandkids tell you what they are learning from their parents. That’s the real value of a family farming business, in my mind.”
Demands on the business can make things challenging.
“There are certainly urgent demands placed upon us, and we often forget the importance of people,” he said. “Communicating with family members is important, not urgent, but if you ignore it, all of a sudden, we have an urgent issue to address for the success of the family ranch. Don’t neglect relationships. Take time now. Invest in your family members.”
Family dynamics can be a tricky part of any ranching operation, but Irvine’s tips and tricks can be applied to help create a successful, healthy business to be a part of, instilling values in the kids and ensuring sustainability for the future generations of agriculture.