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Finance First: Speedier decision-making on the farm

Why it’s important to learn how to work with someone who is very different from you.

My brother and I own our operation on a 50-50 split. We work well together, but he’s much more cautious and risk-averse than me. He wants to analyze everything in-depth. Our farm has been very successful through steady growth, but with the recent downturn, my brother drags decisions out longer than ever. How can we work better together and speed up our decision-making? — C.B., Nebraska

You’re smart to be thinking about how the two of you can work best together, rather than focusing on your differences. Getting on the same track toward the same goals will make the two of you a stronger team.

First, you can understand each other’s personality and work styles better through self-assessments. Often, when people are very different from each other, it’s difficult to understand where each is coming from.

Learning more about each other — the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s styles — can be eye-opening, as well as helpful on the practical, day-to-day level. You each bring different strengths to the table, and I suspect that’s played a large part in the success of your operation.

Once you’ve both gained a better understanding of who each other is, it will be useful to engage in intentional, forward-looking planning together, along with other stakeholders such as your spouses. As part of this planning, step back from the day to day of the operation to think more deeply about the bigger picture: Where is our farm headed? What do we want it to become? Why?

Get that shared vision for the future in place. Then, you’ll want to create plans and goals to help the farm get to that desired future. You may want to have someone from outside of your farm facilitate these sessions, as you negotiate your future vision together.

During this session, you might discuss the decision-making process itself. The group could design a specific process to be used when a major decision comes up, such as a piece of ground for rent. The process doesn’t need to be lengthy, but can cover specific things that you and your brother agree will be important to consider in the decision. You may find that having a process to use actually speeds up the amount of time needed to make major decisions.

Frye is president and CEO of Water Street Solutions. waterstreet@waterstreet.org

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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