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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

Modern Farm Business is now available on iTunes, StitcherGoogle Play, Pocket Casts, TuneIn, and all your favorite podcast content provider apps.


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Sep 13, 2018

A walking, talking champion for the people of agriculture and the family-owned business, Jolene Brown, CSP, CPAE, shares her credibility, authenticity, humor, and wisdom with audiences worldwide through her writing, keynotes, and workshops. She’s a 2017 inductee into the prestigious CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®, a lifetime award for speakers who have reached the top echelon of their platform. She’s one of only 237 members worldwide, including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and General Colin Powell.

Herself being a farmer from West Branch, Iowa, Jolene is proud to use her platform to celebrate the people of agriculture. She travels worldwide sharing leading-edge best practices that have the power to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. In addition, Jolene is an official contributor for Pink Tractor and Successful Farming.

Her passion is to make a positive impact to the lives of the people and the industry of Agriculture!

Twitter @JoleneBrownCSP
Facebook: @jolene.brown.710
Youtube: @jolenebrowncsp

Holy Crap! I Married a Farmer: Joy-filled Lessons Connecting Our Sisters in Agriculture. 2017. Jolene Brown LLC.
Sometimes You Need More than a 2x4: How-to Tips to Successfully Grow a Family Business. 2011. Successful Farming® Custom Publishing.
“The Top 10 Mistakes that Break Up a Family Business!” 2-DVD/workbook set
All available for order now in Jolene’s web store at!


Nothing is better (or worse) than working with family members. If you want to love and honor your family and sit together at the holiday table, you’ve got to do the business right...otherwise you might end up with neither a family or a business.

The most successful family business are doing a few of the same things right:

  1. They put specific things in writing (managing people, business overview, dealing with conflict, code of conduct, etc.)
  2. They know that cash flow is vital, and they use tools and an advisory team to manage it: accountant, attorney, business coach, financial planner, etc.
  3. They focus on three behaviors:
    • They notice more and pay attention to details, giving encouragement and praise at all levels
    • They give more than they have to and always lend a hand to help others
    • They are always growing in their ability to deliver more value to the operation.

This is a “people business.” A lot of us are great at production but crappy with people. We need to expand our people skills beyond the family and our employees—to include suppliers, customers and the community. Do the people business right, and the productivity follows suit. It’s not just leading and managing from the top-down; you’ve got to have it from the bottom-up to support that mindset as well.

Building valuable leadership skills:

  1. Young people: work for someone else for at least 2-3 years before working for a family member—that experience will help you bring more to the family business
  2. Don’t underestimate peer groups and mastermind groups for helping you get outside perspectives; go to workshops; network
  3. Balance learning new leadership skills with production knowledge; don’t let production overshadow the importance of people skills

There is no entitlement to be in a business. Younger generation must be qualified to work in the business, and they must build equity in the business incrementally.

“Some day this will all be yours” is a lie. “Mom and Dad might mean it, but it means absolutely nothing unless you’ve done the work to make it happen.

To continue the business beyond the senior generation, they must be financially secure and emotionally ready. Without these conditions met, the senior generation will never relinquish control.

If you’re doing these things, you could be sabotaging yourself and your operation for later:

  • Not putting enough in writing: With family, more, not less, should be in writing. Labor in exchange for equipment, building up of sweat equity—put it all in writing.
  • Failing to utilize key advisors: Everything needs to fit into the cash flow, and you need to know key ratios to be assured the operation is strong.
  • Building the business on “shifting sand”: Make sure you manage your risk and have a Plan B.
  • Avoiding conflict: Many conflicts need to happen, so learn those conflict management skills, and let the leadership model the way.
  • Failure to celebrate: Pause once in a while to applaud the work that’s been done. Find the good in each other and in the business, and celebrate the wins.


  • Take a look at where you are today to know the foundation you have to build upon, or whether you need to say goodbye and look for another line of work.
  • Reach out to those around you for inspiration, education and encouragement.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about problems, concerns and celebrations.
  • Get involved in mastermind groups and peer groups.
  • Pay attention to the family—there are a lot of mental health issues in the farming industry today, so pay attention to warning signs of depression and suicide.