March 2, 2015
Relationships and farming don't sound like they would go together. In fact, your profession depends on your ability to relate to and communicate with others. Your primary audiences, beyond family, are vastly different people with different roles: employees, vendors, lenders and, in many cases, landlords.
So why is it so hard to communicate with these people?
Jerry Moss, CEO of Moss Family Farms and American Heartland Company, suggests taking time out of your monthly, weekly, and even daily schedules to make sure your business relationships are up to par.
Related: Build a Business-First Family Farm
"Take your focus off of landlord greed and get into the mentality of recognizing there is competition in the market," says Illinois farmer/farm manager Jerry Moss.
Moss knows something about the need to communicate. He manages 57 farms in Illinois and Iowa and spends time consulting with farmers on enterprise analysis, risk management, performance comparisons, record keeping, cost cutting and acquisitions. He also writes a monthly column with his son, Jason, in Farm Futures.
Everything goes back to the golden rule, "Treat others how you would like to be treated," he says. Are you doing your best to act on it? Here are some ways to evaluate and improve business relationships:
"Your ultimate goal is to convince your high-end landlords that they can achieve a win-win situation by having both high-rent and repeat tenants with more frequent lease adjustments," Moss says. "You want more of a bonus system versus a totally fixed rent."
Flex or bonus systems require more trust and communication within the relationship because of the complicated nature of the lease or agreement. A perfect flex-rent system isn't always realistic, but both farmers and landlords can succeed with small adjustments in their lease.
Related: What Do Landlords Want?
There's an endowment mentality amongst landlords that can only be improved with proper communication and negotiation, says Moss. "Take your focus off of landlord greed and get into the mentality of recognizing there is competition in the market," he says.
There's a number of steps you can take to improve landlord relationships. First, know the background information. Stay up-to-date on competitive rental rates in the area. "The elements of an ethical lease include honesty, candid communication, mutual respect, good farming practices, and a fair up-to-date written lease," Moss says.
Be aware of common landlord misconceptions so that you can respond properly when needed. "You don't want to be blindsided in any of these conversations, so make sure to think about them ahead of time," he says.
Spend more time getting to know your landlords so you have the social capital to effectively communicate with them about complex issues. Moss says that utilizing communication only to discuss costs and to pay bills is dangerous and bad for a healthy relationship. Work to find the hot points that make a difference to your landlords, and play off of those points when the opportunity arises.
Communication is key with both landlords and vendors. The better you get at negotiation and talking about money, the more successful you will be.
"Be honest, be open, be respectful and be informed - and you will be better off in the long run," Moss concludes.
– Emkes is a senior agricultural communications major at the University of Illinois
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