Family business meetings – Make a schedule, stick to it, be open

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It is no secret that managing a family business has its ups and downs.
Some family members may not have a desire to be involved in the business, while others want to understand and manage the business, but have never been given the opportunity to participate in making decisions.
Utilizing family business meetings can help with making multigenerational businesses be successful.
To effectively work as a family team, it is important that business meetings be held because they can provide a vehicle for making important decisions that may impact several members.
Although important for a number of reasons, sitting at the kitchen table during a meal is not a true business meeting.
Consider the following as you make family business decisions.
Environment. Holding meetings in a business environment can enhance the quality of the meeting. If possible, meet in an office and limit telephone calls, distractions and other interruptions.
If a kitchen table is used, be sure it is cleared of food and other items
Too often, meetings are held only when fires need to be extinguished.
Schedule. Pick a consistent time to meet and stick to the schedule. If the meetings are to be held the first Monday of the month, make it a habit to meet.
If for some reason the meeting has to be canceled, be certain it is rescheduled.
Preparation. Be prepared. Take time to prepare an agenda of the items you intend to discuss and provide a copy to each person.
Provide an opportunity for all family members to add items to the agenda prior to or at the start of the meeting.
If there are any materials (financial records, building plans, etc.) that need to be used at the meeting, give the materials to members for review prior to the meeting.
Taking minutes. Prior to the start of the meeting make sure someone will take minutes of the discussion.
Unless minutes are recorded, disagreements may emerge later about what decisions were reached.
Making decisions. What kind of decision-maker are you? Decisions that affect the business are important to all family members.
Below is a listing of different decision-making styles.
Autocratic. Those who make decisions quickly without consulting others would be considered autocratic.
This is the fastest and easiest way to make decisions, but the lack of ownership by everyone involved is a major disadvantage.
This approach can be used if time is a constraint or individual parties don’t feel a need to contribute.
Democratic. A second style is democratic.
In this approach a vote is taken and the majority wins and the minority looses.
This may not be the best approach for small families, but sometimes may be the only viable alternative.
Consensus. Consensus building is a third decision making style. In this approach, facts are used to outline the pros and cons of the decision.
This style relies on the belief that those opposed will gravitate to the desired solution when given the right information.
Collaborative. Finally, the most preferred method for making decisions is the collaborative style.
Collaboration is a time-consuming process, but is one that is best when major decisions must be made and the support of all affected members is needed.
If you are not already, I hope you will use this information to begin holding regular meetings with your family members.
Assess yourself about your decision making style. Understand how your style is similar or different to those of your family members.
These meetings can help to enhance communication and improve the performance of your business.
(Information adapted from: Two-Generation Farming, Iowa State University, November 1998)
(The author is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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