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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.


   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 


   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.


   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.


   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

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