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Family Business Matters 11/25 16:42


Family Business Matters 11/25 16:42

Building Blocks of Relationships

This practical advice can help create better connections with family
business partners.

Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

While spring is a time for planting, and fall is a time for harvesting, the
winter months offer an opportunity to interact differently with family and
business partners. The time spent inside working on financial and business
planning, or in the shop working on equipment, or just hanging out with your
family during the holidays are chances to nurture the relationships that
sustain your family business.

Just like you need knowledge and skills to grow a crop or raise an animal,
you also need knowledge and skills to improve your relationships. In her book
"Getting Relationships Right," Melanie Joy reminds us of the building blocks of
good relationships. Consider the following fundamentals as you improve your
bonds in the family business.

SECURITY

You feel secure in a relationship when the other person is attentive to your
needs, is kind and considerate and is not out to harm you. You may still have
difficult conversations or conflicts, but these arise from the care rather than
hostility you feel toward one another. If a sense of security between family or
team members is absent, it will be difficult to build a relationship of any
kind.

CONNECTION

The bond we feel toward another can have many components. From a romantic
bond between spouses to a philosophical connection between people who share
similar beliefs, the sense that we have something in common sets the stage for
a relationship. You may have a shared sense of humor, enjoy similar kinds of
experiences or hobbies, have a historical connection or perhaps enjoy the bond
created through stimulating conversation.

If you lack this kind of connection with a family member or in-law, I
encourage you to take a trip or find an event to experience together, or
jointly read and discuss a book or a podcast. Even the experiences of
volunteering or giving money together provide an opportunity for family members
to bond.

TRUST

Because of the intimate knowledge family members have of one another and
with the confidential financial information in a family business, trust is
critical to relationships on the family farm or ranch. What often causes
distrust among family members is a feeling that one or both parties have not
honored an agreement.

For example, keeping information private, consulting a partner before a key
decision or including someone in an event, activity or conversation are some of
the expectations we have in a family business. However, many of these
agreements are often implied and not discussed openly beforehand. People find
out after an infringement that an agreement has been violated or trust damaged.
Then, they need to rebuild. And, rebuilding trust is hard work.

INTEGRITY

Joy suggests integrity is not just a value we hold but a practice, a set of
behaviors. Integrity is practiced by demonstrating, through compassion or
kindness, that you care about the well-being of others -- they have "worth" to
you. Integrity is also demonstrated by treating people in a way they feel is
fair -- that their thoughts and efforts are considered by you in your
interaction and decisions. Other values and behaviors, such as honesty and
courage, help complete the sense we have that someone is acting with integrity.
A family business in which members question one another's integrity is likely
headed for dissolution.

Being family does not guarantee a good relationship. In fact, because we are
family, we often take the relationship for granted. Take the time to care for
and tend to the relationships with your family members and their spouses this
winter, and you will reap the harvest of a more positive family and business in
the future.

**

Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite
415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email lance.woodbury@kcoe.com.




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