Q&A: Getting Everyone Together To Talk

We struggle to get everyone together to talk business.

Dear ABDI,

We run a family mixed farming business with 3 main parties: A set of parents looking to retire, and two brothers and their wives (I’m one of the wives) who are effectively running the business and looking to formally take over in a few years.

I’ve noticed that we have a lot of trouble getting everyone together around the table to talk about the important business issues. When we’re together, we often have a mixture of business and personal talk, and sometimes it feels we aren’t really talking about the things that need to be talked about (we don’t even have a formal succession plan!).

I really want to change this dynamic, but I doubt I have enough say in things to make everyone see the need for a change.

Any pointers?

-Table Talk

Dear Table Talk,

A lot of our clients in family farming businesses get a lot out of having a formal advisory board. This advisory board will meet routinely (monthly or quarterly), have a set agenda and outcomes will be documented. The meeting is also generally chaired by an external party who keep the meeting on track, and can also offer an objective point of view. The aim is to get a chair who has a skill-set that is a bit different to, and will benefit, others in the management team.

In many cases, that chair can be someone from the local community who has experience in business, might be retired, and wants to give back to the community. Otherwise there are lots of businesses who offer services as advisory board members or chairs, and in reality it’s probably cheaper than you think. Like any good advisors, they will make or save you more money than they cost.

While I don’t know the exact dynamics in your family, like all of these things, it is always best if the people you need to convince think it’s their idea. Make sure you understand who the key decision maker is, and then drop some subtle hints about “things not getting done as agreed”, or about “how good it would be to have someone around you could ask the difficult questions to”.

Good luck!



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