Businesses are built on good teams; and teams are built on people pulling in the same direction. Creating an open culture where everyone is valued and heard is key to this. Gary Markham, director of farms and estates at Land Family Business, suggests five ways to create an open culture.
1. Hold family AGMs: Hold annual meetings with all family members, farming and not. Start the conversation about succession, retirement, and wills – get it all out in the open. When everyone knows what to expect and work towards, they will feel more motivated and focused on driving towards that objective. Use an independent facilitator and consider keeping them as a non-executive director so they can help keep lines of communication open should problems arise.
2.Invite staff to the AGM: Invite your employees to the beginning of the family AGM so they can meet everyone, including non-farming members, and talk about how the year has gone and any issues encountered. This will help everyone feel part of a team.
3. Have monthly team meetings: Hold monthly team meetings for those working in the business, both family and staff. Ensure you have the family AGM first though, so all family members are all singing from the same hymn sheet.
4. Book in staff appraisals: Have regular appraisals with employees where you both openly discuss what is working well, achievements, training needs, and any issues. Allow staff to raise any concerns, and encourage them to suggest improvements.
5. Assess your soft skills: Being approachable and good at communication is key, so if you find this difficult, consider getting training. If you are a young farmer battling with a parent who lacks these skills and is unlikely to change much, use your AGM and independent, non-executive director to raise communication issues and collectively decide how to support change.
Shape Your Farming Future is a series of informative and practical guides looking in-depth at issues pertinent to farmers when planning for the future.