Managing relationships

For those in the farming industry and running a business, how many recognize that we are also in the business of managing relationships. Relationships are the key to our existence. Staff relationships are the key to our business.

With our farm staff, we have these expectations of them to work just as hard and as long as us. We expect them to be enthusiastic and make all the extra effort. If they don't, many farmers do get grumpy. But whether we like it or not, we actually have a relationship with them. We own a farm or two, we have some money and we want it all to work and run smoothly. Our staff owns a car and some furniture, maybe some stock and maybe a house. Are we on the same page? I think not. How do we manage to get what we want whilst allowing them to achieve their objectives?

Managing the relationship between your staff and yourself is the key to existence. I feel the number one issue on farms is staffing. This relationship needs to be managed correctly. Now, more than ever, we are being asked to assist in managing these relationships. It is interesting to hear both sides of the story and then manage the expectations of both parties.

A good example is an AB technician. If you look at it from the AB's point of view, they are up early, probably milked their own herd of cows, by the time they get to your place at 10.30am, they are possibly dead on their feet. Everybody still expects them to perform with a high conception rate. The reality is they are probably tired and a little grumpy. What about providing a cup of coffee and a gingernut biscuit? Do you think your conception rate will rise? I believe it would.

I have clients who have a purpose built kitchen at the cowshed. When they built their new shed, they put in a stainless steel bench top and a cooker. All the suppliers show up at 8.15 am for a cooked breakfast. Most of them contribute by bringing the coffee or the bacon and eggs, but the point here is the staff and suppliers are happy. Everybody is happy because they are actually communicating.

Look at partnerships. They are no different than relationships. Maybe they could change the name 'farm partnerships' to 'farm relationships'.

I recently received a call from someone who was in a dry stock equity partnership. It was ill conceived with no agreements signed. There was no discussion and it lasted 6 months. Now it is all flying to bits. This is really sad for all the people involved and it is going to cost them all a lot of money. At the end, it is just another failed relationship. A word of warning here is that partnerships and relationships are easy to get into but difficult to get out of. Everybody seems to want to go into partnership or is in a relationship when buying property, going farming and so on only to find that they don't tend to work out. It's because we don't have enough confidence to do it on our own that we bring other people in. Much to our disappointment they often don't work out.

Bank Managers, here's another relationship you need to manage. You need to keep in touch with the bank manager, treat him with respect and kindness, encourage him to come and visit you and manage the relationship. More than that, you need to keep them informed so they know what's going on. Then they can do the best for you.

And then, of course, we all have personal relationships. How do you manage those better? Men and women are so different it's a wonder that we can live together, but we do. It's interesting to see people later on in life that are really dependent on their relationship for their wellbeing and worth. Surviving a relationship through the difficult times is really important.

So back on the farm you need to realise that managing the relationships of all the people who provide services for you or work for you need to be looked after. A relationship is like a flower, if you don't water it, it will die. Look after your staff because they are the key to your business, otherwise you may find you are milking your own cows.

In summary, managing relationships is something we all need to focus on. We need to look at it from the other person's point of view. If we are unable to effectively manage the relationship, then we need to bring other people in to do so. We also need to be aware of having correct documentation around employment contracts, equity partnerships and so on. This way, we actually have something to fall back on if we need it.

Relationships are the key to our very existence and those who fail to manage them will find life most difficult.


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