David Bach wrote in his book, Smart Couples Finish Rich, that “a couple’s financial plan is a lot like a plane with two engines. If both engines aren’t pointed in the same direction or working at roughly equal power, you are going to have problems. Without teamwork, financial planning for most couples becomes a battle, not a victory.”
Similarly if the engines aren’t pointed towards mutually shared goals, you are going to have problems. For a family business with multiple individuals, you can imagine the dilemma if business goals are not predetermined. There are more than two engines with the capacity to help a business soar or crash into the ground. Having shared goals is important to maximize the collective strength of the family to ensure not only their business goals are achieved but their personal and family goals as well.
Here are some thoughts to consider when creating your list of shared goals.
(1) Working together towards a common goal is often achieved with commitment and collaboration to create a favorable outcome. Special projects and events bind a family together rather than tear them apart. A good example is harvest when everyone is on board to get the crop in the bins.
(2) Understanding why a goal is important to the operation of the business is critical. Family members are likely to take a shared interest in the goal if they see the value in the proposal. “Why should we buy a new combine when the old one works just fine?” When everyone has a stake in the decision-making process, unity towards the shared goal is achieved.
(3) Showing respect preserves your relationship even when opposing a person’s proposed goal. You are not saying “No” to the person rather to the proposal. The proposal is not a shared goal if it doesn’t fit the overall plan of the operation. Cultivating relationships built on honesty, trust, and respect are the nuts and bolts of a family business. When family members understand the decision is turned down for business reasons, not personal, they are receptive.
(4) Making logical and rational points for a proposal based on the facts is helpful in the decision-making process. Compromise meets in the middle. A well thought-out project might not happen this year. “No” doesn’t entirely mean “No”. “No” may mean “Not now” but rather “Let’s plan for next year.”
(5) Keeping the business family informed helps everyone understand the present financial status of the operation. There’s a time to be frugal and a time to splurge. The key is knowing when the time is right to do neither. When they are allowed to ask questions, like “Can we afford this tractor?” they have both an interest and a willingness to understand the practicality of the shared goal. Their presence gives them a voice in the shared goals; otherwise they may feel excluded, resentful, and unwilling to show their support.
(6) Understanding the commitment to the shared goal, both in terms of labour and finances, needs to be addressed. “Do we have the resources to undertake a special project this year?” “Can we adequately farm another section of land?”
(7) Having too many proposed goals creates confusion. Setting time lines and establishing priorities are favorable for accomplishing goals in an agreed upon order. Shared goals should never be seen as “your idea” or “my idea” but rather converted and renamed as "our ideas”.
(8) Seeking help from other advisors will provide clarity and direction on how and when to proceed with unique projects. The logistics, both the pros and cons, are best analyzed by a professional. A “second opinion” can also serve as a buffer when the discussions about shared goals are stalled.
(9) Agreeing to disagree and stepping away may be the best solution if a shared goal cannot be established. Relationships are important. Keep a clear perspective on your expectations and your current reality. These could be miles apart and play havoc with your emotions. You can’t make someone do what you want done. A good read is the book, Why Don’t You Want What I Want, by Rick Maurer.
(10) Learning and understanding your family’s unique personality type and communication style will serve you well in negotiating your shared goals. Reference to these need-to-know-and-understand traits was made in the blogs, What Colours Build You and How Did We Get It So Wrong. Tweaking your listening skills will be an added benefit. Read How Good are Your Listening Skills.
(11) Hosting meaningful open meetings about shared goals begins with well-established rules. Jolene Brown, farmer, professional speaker, author and champion of family owned businesses, has a Code of Conduct for Your Farm Business. She would gladly share a copy when you email her. Your Code of Conduct identifies your values and expectations and sets the foundation for a strong and thriving business.
I wished I could say “communication is easy”. I would be fooling myself and you if I did. Communication becomes complicated when our emotions kick in. Emotions tend to get in the way of logic. There’s a lot at stake when working with family members especially when establishing business goals. I believe if you are sincere and trustworthy in your communication, loyalty, and love will prevail. Setting aside egos and giving up control will open the doors to better cooperation. Then a sincere desire will emerge to create a soaring family business built on mutually-agreed-upon goals.
Please share what works the best for you to create "A Dozen Considerations for Developing Shared Goals."