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Use core values to build teams, pursue opportunities

Transitions and Strategies: Understanding your farm’s values creates clarity and alignment around what we care about at a gut level.

Tim Schaefer, Founder

June 28, 2023

3 Min Read
road signs that say ethics, honesty and integrity
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This blog is part two in a series. Read part one and part three.

Last week I outlined the benefits of using formal strategic planning on farms. In addition to aligning generations as part of a transition plan, a strategic plan creates alignment and helps farmers be proactive versus reactive.

Farmers tell me that strategic planning allowed them to jump on the right opportunities and hire the right employees faster because it was clear what they truly wanted.

I have found that the more successful the farm, the more "opportunities" come their way. One farmer told me, "I lost a lot of money believing that just because I was good at the business of farming, I thought I could run any business." Saying no to the wrong opportunities or people is just as important as saying yes to the right ones.

Let's discuss the foundation of a strategic plan: Values.

Values are the WHY. Understanding values creates clarity and alignment around what we care about at a gut level. The importance of truly understanding what is important to people can't be overstated.

Assuming that because a farm is made up of family members, that everyone holds the same values, is often a mistake. Misalignment of core values is the root cause of most conflict and why some farms can't get buy-in for decisions. Decision-making that is very slow or doesn't happen at all is a sign that people’s values may not be aligned.

Related:What's the plan?

We use core values to sift through two areas: Who is on the team, and what business opportunities to pursue.

Building a solid team

Think of core values as a way to sift through your pool of candidates and find the right ones.

Using values to sort out people? Some of the best farms we advise have solid teams; in each case, they pay close attention to values alignment. They only hire people who fit their values.

From their core values, they create a code of conduct and expectations on how to act. Over time the behaviors of the team build a culture that attracts the right employees and repels the wrong ones.

This can sound harsh, but how many times have we had an employee or family member who didn't fit in despite their many talents and did more harm than good?

Sift out opportunities

Here is an example.

A farm family I work with is considering expanding their feed processing business (I'm being vague for privacy reasons), but it would require 24-hour shifts and more employees. They also have an opportunity to expand their retail business and work beside their teenage children while teaching them entrepreneurship. However, the retail business isn't a money-maker at this time, while the processing makes a lot of money. So do they choose to forgo some easy profits on the processing side or build entrepreneurship with the next generation by expanding the retail? What fits closest with their values?  

Strategic planning is a process, and values are the cornerstone of that process. Next month we'll look further at creating a compelling vision that builds commitment among family and employees alike.

Schaefer is an executive management coach and succession planner for farms and agribusinesses. If you have a management or succession planning question, contact [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Tim Schaefer

Founder, Encore Wealth Advisors

Tim Schaefer guides large, successful farm operations, helping them get and keep a competitive edge. His tools are peer groups via the Encore Executive Farmer Network, transition planning, business growth planning, and executive coaching. His print column, Transitions & Strategies, appears regularly in Farm Futures and online at He is a Certified Family Business Advisor, Certified Business Coach and Certified Financial Planner. Raised on a successful family farm, his first business venture was selling sweet corn door to door with an Oliver 70.

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