Row Markers: Guidance and standards for our behaviors

Where's your Row Marker?  The Imprint of a Code of Conduct!

By Jolene Brown

Our fields of corn and soybeans are at the depth of green, they are on the grow. As I drive down the road or walk our farmstead, my eyes follow the even rows, those stretching straight for miles, or those creating a beautiful design contouring around the hills. And then I think…what would this look like without a row marker on our planters…or GPS to guide the way? It is those initial "marks" that set the tone for the whole growing season…where to plant, where to spray, where to apply nutrients, where to drive the combine.  The "marker" sets us on the right path. 

It's the same for human behavior. In a family business, we, too, need guidance and standards for our behaviors in order to stay on the right path. This is especially important as we work with different generations, different personalities, and different expectations.

A Code of Conduct is one of the most important written tools in a family business.  It is a statement of core values that define who you are, what you stand for, and what others can consistently expect from you. It is also a benchmark for evaluation of your performance and results.

As a family business consultant, I've learned when your values are clear, decisions become much easier. And as John Blumberg, a mastermind partner and author ofGood to the Core,so clearly states, "When personal values and business values align, exponential value is realized." I believe that right and clarified expectations based on common ground values are some of the greatest influencers of success and achievement.

Time and time again I've seen disagreements over behaviors within a family business. I've seen waffling of standards become the jealousy trigger between siblings. I've known businesses that were brought down by the unethical behavior of a family employee. I've seen family members never speaking to each other again because a clash in standards was not resolved.

The much better option is defining, then consistent adherence, to your own business's Code of Conduct.  This Code needs to be in writing, created by your Business Team, requires 100% consensus for the final document, is formally adopted at a Business meeting, is personally signed by all, including any new employees…and becomes a foundation of all job descriptions and performance evaluations. 

When writing your own "Code of Conduct" it's helpful to:

Think in terms of values, beliefs and expectations rather than facts.

Use common language understood by employees at all levels.

Be concise, within reason, giving brief example if necessary.

Use directives rather than vague words.

Make it easy to read.

And remember, a Code of Conduct means nothing unless there are leaders and managers modeling the behaviors…and holding themselves and others to account.

If you would like a sample family business Code of Conduct, please email,

Jolene Brown is a farmer, professional speaker, author and champion for the family owned business. She's from West Branch, Iowa, USA, and travels worldwide sharing leading-edge best practices that have the power to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. Her passion combined with her fun-filled spirit and valuable information brings humor, hope and helpful ideas to the people of agriculture. For more information and to check out her speaking availability, contact her at,

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Copyright © 2016 Jolene Brown, LLC. All Rights Reserved
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