Mind Your Farm Business — Ep. 56: How to bump farm profitability at the meeting, not kitchen, table


Family farms that hold regular business meetings are 21 per cent more profitable than those who don’t. That may be, but the mere mention of “meeting” likely makes you roll your eyes or maybe grumble in disapproval.

Family meetings might bring up some not-so-pleasant memories, but Elaine Froese, farm family coach, says it doesn’t have to be this way. As a family business, it’s incredibly important that farms hold regular, focused business meetings, and not at the family dinner table after church on Sunday.

Froese says the key to a successful farm meeting is structure — this means taking care of some things before the meeting even starts.

“I just want to get people talking to each other, rather than avoiding each other,” Froese explains. “[You need to ask] what you want your life on the farm to look like. It’s very important to make the distinction too, though, that how you run your family — and those would be family councils, what you want to do for fun in your off season — and your farm meeting. Those two meetings are very different from each other.” (Story continues below video)

The first thing you need to do is to decide who needs to be at said farm meeting, when you are going to meet, and what the purpose is going to be. Define the structure, make it more “official” than a family council meeting would be. A lot of people are nervous about the “drama” that family meetings can hold, but the way this can be avoided is through a family code of conduct, explains Froese.

“Set some guidelines for the meeting. It will only be this long. Start slow, with a meeting that maybe doesn’t last for longer than two hours. I also use a talking stick,” she says. “We use these in our farm family meetings, and even my son will have to sometimes remind me that [the stick] is in his hands.

“Another thing that I would highly recommend is that families have a flip chart. What it does is gives you a visual pad to land your ideas in a big format. And then at the end of the meeting, you just take out your smartphone, and you click. And you take digital photos and records of what was discussed.”

The frequency of meetings depends on the goal of the meetings. You may have operational meetings weekly, financial meetings quarterly, and strategic meetings once a year. The key is to set out action items at the end of each meeting, assign them to someone, attach a timeline to get these items done, and set a date for the next meeting.

Disclaimer: Royal Bank of Canada and its subsidiaries are not responsible for the information provided in this podcast, and this information does not necessarily reflect the views of Royal Bank of Canada or any of its subsidiaries. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its subsidiaries.

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