Day Writing: Family meetings
January 4, 2017
Growing up, my mom would periodically call family meetings. This was the result of one of two things. Either we had all been grumbling to her about someone or something, or there was something ranch related she and my dad wanted to discuss and seek input on. In both instances, she would suddenly descend upon each of us kids, and drag us proverbially kicking and screaming to the kitchen table where my dad was stoically drinking a freshly brewed cup of coffee. The coffee pot was all the further he could get from the table because she knew he would disappear if given any more leeway.
Upon collecting her brood, my mother would gather pen and paper to take notes, and we would begin. We might go over the balance sheet, financial statement, etc… from the bank and compare it to what we had planned for the year. My mother also has an accounting degree, and she made certain we understood what all those numbers meant. My dad's degree is in ag economics, so when she was done he would explain all the ways to compare the numbers and decipher what those comparisons told us. Or, we might discuss money saving ideas relevant to the operation's feed inputs. It might be a newer piece of equipment being considered. We usually did both personal and operational goals once a year at a meeting, and reviewed them 12 months later. If a decision was being made my parents were the known final voice, but they always respected and listened to our thoughts and ideas.
As an adult, I am very grateful my mom put up with all our attitudes regarding the meetings. Because of them we were included and invested in our ranch. We gained irreplaceable experience and understanding of: ag finances and budgeting, family and business communication, mature decision making skills, long term planning, respect, accountability, working through failed ideas, and the list goes on.
While none of us were too fond of the family meetings when they were called, by the end we were relieved she had called it, glad to have whatever was going on out in the open, and excited to see the result of our combined thoughts. To watch what we had decided as a family come to fruition was exciting, especially when it worked.
I've also come to the surprising realization that not all mothers put their offspring through family meetings. If you're looking for something to start in 2017 that will provide long term benefits on all fronts, may I suggest dragging your entire family to the kitchen table and actually talking about the important things, then holding one another accountable for following through with what was discussed. You'll likely have your work cut out for you, as sitting down to actually talk about such stuff ranks somewhere between poisoning prairie dogs and lancing an abscess for most people. But, if you need assistance, I know a lady that can help.