Stamp Out Entitlement: Develop Ownership Criteria For Your Farm

    When you create frameworks for issues such as ownership, conversations become much easier, says Rena Striegel of Transition Point Business Advisors. (Top Producer)

    A desire to be part of the farm can quickly slide into an expectation of control. As you look at transitioning leadership and ownership of your farm to the next generation, be ready to tackle entitlement issues.

    “If you are experiencing the phenomena of entitlement, you must acknowledge it and develop a plan for how you’re going to deal with it,” says Rena Striegel, president of Transition Point Business Advisors. “The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be to get rid of it.”

    What is entitlement? Essentially, she says, it is either the belief someone has a right to something or it is the belief one is deserving of privileges or special treatment.

    Entitlement can actually occur on two different levels:

    • It can happen on an individual level where a person believes something has been promised.
    • It can happen when a parent creates an environment where their children are treated differently than other people in the operation.

    “In either case, the outcome can be a really big source of disagreement between spouses and families who might have different philosophies,” Striegel says.


    Your goal is to create a framework and tools for these tough conversations, Striegel says, so no one feels singled out or mistreated. First,
    create a family employment policy. Keep it simple, she advises.

    Gather your family and agree on how family members will be hired, compensated, managed and rewarded in terms of bonuses or other rewards, she says.

    “Be sure to emphasize ownership and employment are two different issues — earning a check as an employee is very different than owning a piece of the farm business,” Striegel says.

    Next, create ownership criteria. Detail the types of assets that can be owned and when by family members (see checklist). Be specific with duties and timelines.

    “You want to use official language because this is an official document,” Striegel says.

    Finally, make sure you have roles and accountability clearly defined for those involved in the farm. This can come in the form of job descriptions, organizational charts or other farm structure documents.


    As you create these documents and framework, Striegel says you will need to lead your team and focus on the end goal.

    “Working through these important issues takes leadership and the ability to call a spade a spade,” she says. “If you see a problem, call it out and work through it. That’s how you’ll establish healthy boundaries and expectations with your team and with your family.”

    Ownership Assessment: Who, How, When And Why

    This checklist from Rena Striegel’s The DIRTT Project can be used as a guide to create ownership criteria for your operation. You can also use the tool to determine where potential owners might need coaching, mentoring or leadership development. Use the following to help create your requirements. Feel free to add.

    Does a family member need to be employed full-time in the operation?

    Does the family member need to demonstrate leadership?

    Does the family member need to demonstrate responsibility displayed in all areas of the operation?

    Is a track record of success required?

    Does the family member need to be engaged and present or can they just “show up”?

    Does the family member have a solid skill set that provides value to the operation in the role they currently play?

    Does the family member need to be able to work collaboratively and cooperatively with others?

    Does the family member need to understand the finances and show responsibility for them?

    Does the family member need to show accountability to other owners and employees?

    Does the family member need to support the vision of the operation and take action to make it a reality?

    Does the family member need to communicate in an open, honest and respectful way?

    Does the family member need to share and display the values of the operation?

    Does the family member need to have the ability to be flexible and make changes when necessary?

    Does the family member need to be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good?

    Does the family member need to demonstrate emotional control and resilience?

    Does the family member need to be committed to constant and never-ending improvement?

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