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Defining Your Role On The Family Ranch

img_2068b.jpg Daughter, sister, wife, cook, housekeeper, chore help, cattle marketer, writer, speaker — these are my roles on a daily basis. Like so many of you, I wear many different hats throughout the day, some obviously more enjoyable than others. (Pitching manure, late-night calf checks, fixing fence and doing laundry fall low on the list!) However, despite the variety of roles I play throughout the day, beef cattle and family are constant fixtures in my life.

However, sometimes mixing family dynamics with business can get complicated. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Hand County Extension Educator Ann Price speak at a meeting of the Annie's Project in Miller, SD. I addressed the group on agriculture advocacy, while Price talked to the farm women about family businesses.

"When families work together, they take the family system and lay it on top of their business, creating all kinds of problems. There is a balance between having a happy, healthy family and a profitable, effective business," says Price.

Here are a few additional take-away points from her speech:

1. Approximately 40% of U.S. family-owned businesses are currently transitioning to the next generation.

2. Only one-third of family businesses survive to the second generation, and only one in 10 makes it to the third generation.

3. There are three roles family members can have on a ranch: the gatekeeper, the influencer and the user. The gatekeeper regulates the flow of information; the influencer leverages decisions based on experience, position and expertise; and the user takes the information and evaluates it after use. Providing each family member with a clear and defined role based on their skills and personality will best serve the business, Price says.

“Having family members in a business doesn’t have to be a struggle. The advantages are that family members are committed to the ranch, they understand the business and they see it as an extension of family,” she concludes.

How do you make it work in your family-owned business? What tips do you have for meshing multiple generations, personalities and priorities into one successful, sustainable ranch? What are your many roles at your operation? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And, check out this story for more information here.