Farm Management Minute: Goal setting for farm families

Farm Forum

The comparison has been made that planning a business is like planning a trip; you must know where you are going, how you are going to get there and by what means of transportation. Clearly defined goals are a critical element in developing a well-designed business strategy. A fair amount of time and thought should be directed to the aspirations of the farm’s operators. Setting a written target demonstrates that you have thought about the future, allows a documentation of previous thoughts and serves as a means of measurement for success or contentment.

• Characteristics of a goal: Specific, measurable, challenging but realistic, time specific and addresses key result areas.

• Time for accomplishing goals: Goals are divided like our balance sheet items. An annual goal example would be setting an amount of days in the upcoming year to allow for personal activities. Intermediate goals would be increasing the amount of farm income for family living or personal investments by $1000 each year for next five years. An example of a long term goal is to have the only debt 15 years from now be just what is needed to expand the business at that time.

All individuals of the family business should set their own goals. Secondly, married couples should share each other’s goals to identify things in common and recognize differences to make collective goals. Third, all parties involved in the farm business should discuss their goals, and work together to set some collective goals. This is easier said than done. It requires effective communication and a willingness to cooperate. Collective goal setting will certainly take more than one meeting. It is not reasonable to strive to get one set of goals that fits everyone. Some goals will need to be adjusted. May I suggest that your family business meetings have a set time and agenda vs. just the next time it rains or leaning on the pickup.

Don’t be frustrated if a goal is not achieved. All trips have alternative routes that often bring more gratification than the set path would have produced!

Please drive safe, and respect the winter weather. Accidents can put a damper on many goals. If you happen to be delayed somewhere while traveling, talk to folks about your role in feeding the world! We are enrolling farms to participate in our Farm/Ranch Management program. How about getting a jumpstart on the goal you’ve set in the past of better recordkeeping and analysis? You may contact us at 1-800-684-1969, or,