People AND Production

In the title of this blog, I intentionally used "and," not "or," yet on most farms and ranches we do not consider human capital acquisition (hiring the right people) as important as production acquisition (purchasing the right product). A key indicator is the amount of preparation and time we devote to each.

Ask yourself, how much time did we spend preparing for our last big production purchase - farm equipment, buildings, land? How much time did we spend on preparing to hire an employee - family or non-family? Did you utilize experts and advisors to help you make the right decision?

Both are investments…and both are important. But after working with so many in family businesses, I'm convinced we need to devote more resources into preparing to hire the right people. Here's why. Research shows there is greater variability in productivity depending on who is hired than between different colors of equipment purchased.  And when it comes to people, they are much more complex (including emotional and family influences) which means gathering the information needed to make informed decisions is more difficult.

Two consulting phone calls this week reinforced this challenge. I heard these phrases…"Well, we need to bring them into the farm business because they want to farm."  And "When I graduate, I'm going back to the ranch."  I reminded each… before you make any promises, hold any expectations or take any action, the business and the job applicant need to prepare. The stakes and the investments are very high for both parties!

I've found that a determinate of who will most likely succeed in the available position rests in the preparation. This includes meeting my prerequisites for hiring key employees, including a family member.

1. Worthy Candidate:  What do you bring? This includes documentation of character, personality, work ethic, education and experience. It also includes a review of past employment and observation of working well with others. It is a "resume" of value.

2. Worthy position:  Does the business need you? What is the job? What are the business resources provided to help you succeed in the position? Does your value fit into the current business plan or will you propose a value-driven change?

3. Business cost for value given:  What will it cost? Clarify and have in writing all salary, defined fringe benefits and the potential of earning bonuses. Make sure the cost fits into the cash flow.

4. Lessons learned from leadership, management and labor:  Have you worked for a non-family boss for at least 2-3 years…and received a promotion of responsibilities during that timeframe?

5. Emotional intelligence:  Are you independently living away from the parents? Social, emotional and financial responsibilities built maturity when you have autonomy and ownership of the experience.

In all business, including family business, it's vital to remember that it is the right hired people who do all of the important production.  You need to prepare for the right result.

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. Jolene's books, "Holy Crap! I Married a Farmer!" Joy-filled Lessons Connecting Our Sisters in Agricultureand Sometimes You Need More Than a 2x4! How-to-tips to successfully grow a family business are available online at  For more information and to check out her speaking availability, contact her at

Full Rights Consent.  Jolene Brown LLC, West Branch, Iowa, USA, maintains full rights to utilize the content and/or format of all materials submitted by her for the website in any future speaking, writing, audio, video or electronic format.

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