Who are your real friends?

Real friends aren't just friends while you're buying something from them. But dealing with family can be a little more prickly.

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Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC

I once heard someone say, “he who ceases to be your friend never was one.” Farming and business ownership involve many relationships such as buying machinery, seed, chemicals, fertilizer, shops, livestock buildings, as well as many other relationship with service businesses. However, from time to time, I have had to make some business decisions to buy something from another person or another business because of product quality, price or service. I look at this as a simple business decision not a personal conflict.

On a few of those occasions, I have realized that after making the change, a “friendship” was lost. That feels kind of odd. Apparently we were friends as long as I was buying from them or their business, but after I made a business decision to buy elsewhere, our “friendship” ended. So I left wondering, were we ever really friends?

I’m reminded of this thought when parents ask me if, how and when they should tell their children about their distribution plan. Most farming parents generally know what they want, so having a family meeting to find out what everyone else wants is not really a requirement in spite of what you may hear or read. Yes, I think it’s important that your farming heir know the plan, but beyond that it depends on your family situation.

Here’s where it gets interesting. What happens if you tell them all and one of your children did not get what they think they should? Suddenly they don’t want to talk to you or suggest that apparently you don’t love them. Ouch! That can really hurt even if you have a very good explanation for your decisions.

So let’s review: 1. ) You know your goals. 2.) You know the cash flow needed for multiple generations. 3) Your distribution plan takes care of everyone well. Now one of your children is not happy. What then? Well, an unrelated business “friendship” is different than one of your children because children will always be your children. So what if they stop any communication after they find out your plan? What if they are flat out disrespectful to you? It begs the question of what is their love for you based on?


You made decisions for your family and farm that accomplished your goals but maybe that means that some people get a little less than they think they should. Would knowing that affect some of your decision-making now? Would you make decisions out of fear of upsetting someone versus doing what is best for everyone? Does knowing some backlash may come from a child deter you from communicating your plan while you’re living?

For myself, I have to make business decisions that give my farm and business the best chance to for me and the next generation. Do I need permission to do what I think is best? I don’t think so, but on a few occasions I have lost some “friends” or maybe you could say, I have found out who my real friends were.

What is the right answer when those decisions involve family? This is case-by-case but the question is: Will they understand your “why”? If they will, then communicating your plan should not be a problem. If not, maybe not everyone needs to know all the details. I once heard someone say, "To those who understand, no explanation is necessary; and to those who don’t, no explanation is possible."

Join me Monday Jan. 11 at 6 pm for an workshop with case studies and interactive polling questions. Go to to register.

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or

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