After a recent seminar at a national woman’s conference in Salem, OR, a lady approached me concerning her recent family business problem and meetings. Six months prior, I had recommended to her that the family business was in dire need of some business planning and counseling. She had two brothers who were not talking and some hefty strategic business decisions to be made.
The family decided to follow through the process with the reluctant brothers kicking and screaming like babies cutting teeth. A professional facilitated the process.
The lady commented that the meetings were like going through a root canal at a dentist with little or no Novocain. However, she did comment after some probing that the two brothers are now speaking and the business is operating in a more formalized manner with better communication. Reflecting on my quick visit with her, dealing with businesses having communication issues and hard-headed family members or partners can be a painful and emotional process. It is something that can easily be postponed to the future like a bad tooth, which can ultimately result in expensive corrective action in time, money and energy if not properly handled.
If the description of this business situation is all too familiar, you must realize the process of working through issues will be very uncomfortable for everyone involved. You will be challenged in your thoughts and beliefs by a facilitator or mediator with a series of tough questions and exercises, sometimes resulting in immature and childlike behavior. Some family members will seek to avoid confronting the issues or disengage in the process. The result is usually business or family failure with no one to blame but themselves. The bottom line is that most businesses must go through a transition or business troubleshooting process. Sometimes it takes buckling yourself down in the chair, extracting the negative components in your business and developing a permanent bridge for a system and pathway to success.
Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.