Work Elsewhere First

By Davon Cook on October 19, 2015

Are you planning for young family members to join your business, with the goal of an eventual management role?  Do yourself, and them, a favor by requiring them to work elsewhere first - a minimum of one year but ideally at least three.  It's helpful from multiple perspectives:

  1. It builds their credibility with others in the business, which is important when you consider the baggage of being the boss' child or relative.  
  2. It boosts their confidence in themselves, enhancing their contribution of the business.  In my own experience, working away from the family business gave me the assurance that I could identify and solve problems, as well as provide the leadership that would be valuable back home.  
  3. It confirms the decision for both of you.  Time away provides the opportunity to clarify whether in fact the family member wants to return to the demanding work of the agricultural operation.  If they want a different lifestyle than what your business can offer, shouldn't you find out sooner rather than later?

The range of skills they can acquire elsewhere is wide:  accountability to show up on time and work for a new (unrelated) boss; understanding of finance, marketing, supervision, agronomy, or technology;  and knowledge of systems for personnel management that will include annual evaluations and development plans.  Bringing those capabilities and experiences home builds vaule in your business.

If the time as past where a person (including you) can realistically spend a long period away from the family business, there are still several options for this "off the farm" experience.  For example, you might swap an employee with another business for a period of time, work elsewhere in the off-season, take a sabbatical, or pursue off-site leadership and managment training.  The skills and off-site experience build value in the business, while the higher levels of confidence and credibility confirm your investment.