A Guide to Communication for Farm Families

A Guide To Communication For Farming Families

Families are unique and often complex. The families in the case studies are real life examples of the challenges and outcomes facing a family business.

This booklet draws on family structures and plans emanating from family meetings, how they played out in reality and how they might guide future plans. It also provides usable tools to put into practice that will enhance communication.

The aim of this booklet is to increase understanding and to build communication skills among family members and their advisers.

Effective communication is a skill to be learnt and continually practised.

Many factors influence how we communicate -

  • Family history: hence the inclusion of the genogram with each case study 
  • Communication style: all individuals have their own style, and the styles in a family are not always compatible. We need to first understand our own communication style, and the styles of other family members. Hence the inclusion in the case studies of the personality ratings of each of the individuals (to discover your own style see Part 3).
  • Self esteem of individuals 
  • The different styles of communication between the generations 

The foundation for good ongoing communication needs to be reinforced at each of the three stages in the family business cycle. 

The three stages are:

  1. Communication between husband and wife or partners. 
  2. Communication with the children of husband and wife or partners (especially as they reach adulthood)
  3. Communication with new family members (in-laws)

As families progress through these stages additional skills are required. Just as any significant change in a business enterprise mix needs to be researched, thought about and planned for, so it is with any change in the people component of a business. Failure to take the time necessary to do this may lead to damaged relationships and poor business outcomes. Often the real impact of this neglect may not be experienced at the point of change but smoulder away for years to reappear at some other point of stress. 

A good communication strategy will encourage family business to have open discussion, to make consensus decisions and to deal with conflict while it is minor and manageable. This environment discourages discontent to thrive and avoid the tragic divisions seen in some family business.

Published by:
Grains Research and Development Corporation