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Why Does Your Family Cattle Enterprise Exist?

I recently read a blog post written by Steve Moyer for SKM Associates on family business. The title of the blog post was, “Why the family business?”

In his post, he writes, “A family member working in his family business was asked the question, ‘Why does your family business exist?’ The response was a long period of silence, followed by, ‘I never really thought about it. It was always just here!’”

Let that sink in. For many of us, our family ranches span multiple operations. Decades of experience, seasoned wisdom, trial and error, financial risk, errors and triumphs, blood, sweat and tears, tradition, and family memories have been made over many lifetimes.

The ranch has always been there. It will always be there.

Right... Right?!

This is where we pause and take note that we cannot take our family businesses for granted. We can’t assume that a risk taken in this generation doesn’t cripple the business for the long-term. There are many pitfalls in agriculture today, and running a cattle operation in today’s climate has many challenges our great grandparents would have never even had to consider.

So, can we really assume it will always be there to pass along?

This is a lofty and worthy goal, in my opinion. It takes a great deal of passion, dedication, resilience, and determination to pass on a family business from one generation to the next.

But what is one thing that can trip a lot of families up in this endeavor? You know exactly what the answer is — lack of communication.

Okay, so we know we need to communicate more often, more effectively, with more focus in mind, so where do we start

Moyer suggests we answer that initial question, “Why does your family business exist?”

Moyer writes, “The definition of success in a business family may be in the eye of the beholder. The measure of success must be determined and agreed upon by all in the family and the business. When family members are able to share their thoughts, hopes, and dreams in a safe environment, the opportunity to increase family commitment, business growth, and build a family legacy will increase.

“Why is your family in business together?  Is it just a way to pay bills? Is it to provide employment for all family members that need a job? Is it to harvest the business and cash out? Is it to build a family legacy with an entrepreneurial mindset? Is it to build a family legacy? Is it to pass the business to future generations?

“Your family’s dialogue about these questions may be more important than the answers and can provide the basis for putting the pieces in place to building a lasting family legacy. Families that diligently work to build a shared understanding of WHY they own – based on an appreciation of different perspectives, generally have a better understanding about HOW and WHAT they own.

“As a business family, take the time and do the hard work dialoguing with your family to build your roadmap for the success of your family, the ownership group, and the business management.”

In 2022, it is time to sit down with all partners in the business and truly examine the WHY of your business. If everyone is working toward the same goal for the same mission, even when they bring different talents, skills, and passions to that same shared goal, that’s how you move forward in the family business.

And once we’ve nailed down our WHY, the next best steps should become a lot clearer.

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