Author Archives: codesigner


Harvest and Communication

As Harvest fast approaches being over, I want to remind all my clients that now is the time for forgiveness and use of your systems. I know you are in throws of the busiest season of the year. It is likely that you have experienced difficult conversations and one or two miscommunications, despite the work and systems we designed. Remember the rule of “Do Overs”. During extreme demands, our brains go back to instinctual communication patterns. We may be more likely to ignore the new business systems that were created to reduce stress. It is bizarre how as humans we know what to do but refuse to do what will help us stay healthy. Whole industries make millions off this unexplainable human tendency.

If you feel yourself slipping into old communication styles or ineffective conflict methods, I beg of you to STOP, BREATH and FORGIVE. None of us are perfect. We will make mistakes because we are supposed to. Pick yourself up, regroup and start again. Remember to have your task meetings, write things down, clarify and communicate. You got this.

When the harvest is done, regroup and debrief your systems that worked, what did not work and write it down. Before planting season begins, pull these notes out and read them so you can implement effectively. I am thinking about all of you always and I believe in each of your abilities. Godspeed.


How Does Listening Well Impact Your Business And Personal Life?

How much of your daily business is conducted through emails and text messages? How many of your daily purchases involve a click of a mouse, rather than face to face communication? According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, only 7% of our communication relies on the words spoken. With these two perspectives in mind, how well are we communicating in today’s business world?

The Michigan Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds invited me to be their Key Note Speaker on this subject at their 45th Conference and Expo on March 19, 2018, held at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort. As owners and managers, you spend at least forty percent of your day listening to gain information. We retain approximately 25% of what is said to us. Additionally, studies show that we forget one-half to one-third of what we hear within eight hours of the conversation. How do you overcome these statistics? Solutions include learning to use active listening, non-judgmental communication, empathy, and open-ended questions. Active listening requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. When was the last time you used active listening in your business meetings? The attendees at this conference enjoyed learning about these skills while discussing these issues in their workplace.

When was the last time you practiced your listening skills to improve the performance of your company?

Client Wins Large Park of the Year at OCHE

Our client, Cherry Hill Park, won large park of the year at the Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo. This family beats all of the family business stats for continuous family management. So proud the company is working with me. Great people and wonderful business.

Watch the video, follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter to learn how families can work together on a business plan for the future of their campground.

CARVC 2017 Convention

By: Amy Wirtz

I am happy to announce that I will be speaking at the CARVC 2017 Convention in Myrtle Beach.  I will be teaching two seminars and meeting a wonderful group of business owners. Everyone knows that you “should” prepare for transition of the business to the next generation or a new owner.  But let’s face it, it’s difficult to prepare personally let alone professionally.

The first seminar is entitled Your Business is a Legacy. This workshop will introduce a process to help the owner discover ways to increase the value of their business, reduce obstacles that may interfere with the completion of their success plan and help identify and overcome issues that may hinder the transfer.

The second seminar is Difficult Conversations.  Families and businesses need conflict and tension to create solutions and be leaders in their industries. We all have conversations that we avoid or cause us anxiety, especially when dealing with change inside our businesses. No matter how good you get, difficult conversations will always be a challenge. This session will give attendees new skills when approaching difficult conversations.

See you at the Beach (Myrtle that is),

Outdoor and Hospitality Conference and Expo 2016

By: Amy Wirtz

I am excited to announce that I will be presenting at the 2016 Outdoor and Hospitality Conference and Expo in Fort Worth, Texas next week. I will be teaching two seminars and working with a great group of business owners. Many business owners know they must “prepare” to transfer their business to the next generation or a new owner. The idea is often overwhelming. Business owners have ideas on how, when, and where this will happen. Unfortunately, most owners have not formalized nor revealed their plan to anyone impacted by the transfer.

The first presentation is called Your Business is a Legacy. This workshop will introduce a process to help the owner discover ways to increase the value of their business, reduce obstacles that may interfere with the completion of their success plan, and help identify and overcome issues that may hinder the transfer.

The second presentation, the Chief Family Officer, will cover family relationship management. The Chief Family Officer is the individual in a family run business who manages the family relationships. Sadly, this may mean some issues cross over into the personal realm. During this session, attendees will learn how powerful this position is and the benefits in considering someone outside the family to be the “CFO”. Other points to be discussed are the importance of the Influence Savings Account and how to A.C.T. for family harmony.

See you all in Texas,

Creating and Completing a Business Succession Plan is a Marathon, not a Sprint

By: Amy Wirtz

If you follow my Facebook page you know, I accomplished a BIG personal goal this spring. I completed the 21-mile race in Big Sur California on April 24, 2016, in five hours and twenty-five minutes. Big Sur was my first 21-mile race. While I like to think of myself as having a pretty healthy lifestyle, I am by no means a marathoner. As I was doing this wonderfully challenging race, I began comparing my training and completion of this race with the struggles, fear, pain, exertion, and joy my clients go through during the creation, implementation, and completion of their business transition plan.

Doing this race was not my idea and not even in my vision of my future. I love to walk and do it as a stress relief as often as I have time. Last year a good friend, Mary Catherine Barrett, asked me to do the 21-mile race at the Big Sur Marathon with her which was her third race. While I admired her dedication and accomplishment, I never envisioned doing this race.

Like most business owners facing the creation, implementation, and completion of a business succession plan, I initially thought of all the reasons I could not do this. Sound familiar? They included lack of ability, lack of experience, lack of time, the expense, internal conflict, and bad timing.

Do any of these resistance questions remind you of your initial thoughts on embarking on creating a succession plan, organizing a team, or working with Certified Exit Planning Advisor (C.E.P.A.)? Many owners ask “How will I fit this in?”; “Isn’t this a lot of money?”’; “How do you even begin?”; “I do not have enough hours in a day now.” Every owner who completes the transition process begins with a plan and a coach. I had Mary Catherine. She had experience doing the race and mapped out a nine-month training plan. She also got me to “jump” into the experience. She had mentioned this idea to me several times, but in September 2015 she called me on a Saturday and said let’s walk a half marathon for the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame tomorrow. I said sure, and we completed it. Big Sur was my jump of faith. I had to try the idea and see how far I could go. We finished the race and let me tell you it was not pretty. What I learned was that I had the foundation to do a better job with her help. Mary Catherine offered me a way to concretely visualize myself going to Big Sur and completing the race.

The C.E.P.A. can do the same for you and your business. The Exit Planning Institute holds one-day owner forums all over the country. Attending an owner forum is a significant “jump into” event. It is designed to let you try on the idea of doing this project with a coach. You, your business and your family will be able to complete this project with the right “coach.” This coach should be a trained Certified Exit Planning Advisor. We are trained to help you take a large project and break it down into a flexible plan. Your C.E.P.A. will work with you to do the hard tasks, help define your goals and help you make a plan to get the project completed. You can find these workshop dates, times and locations at and click on events. And if a forum isn’t available in your area, call me (440) 695-0941 and let’s jump into a great plan together.

Are Your Advisors Technicians or Advisors?

By: Amy Wirtz

I had a client describe the difference between a hiring a technician and an advisor just last month. We will call this client Mr. Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs called me to tell me about a hiccup he had with his new accountant. He was reviewing his end of the year books and saw that he had paid his new accountant four times what had paid his accountant two years prior. He was worried about the rising cost and called his accountant to tell him to justify this increase in cost and get it under control. Luckily these two have a great relationship. During the conversation the accountant reminded Mr. Jacobs that together they secured new financing at a reduced fixed interest rate, helped him convert from a cash basis to accrual basis and helped him save twice his fees in taxes. Mr. Jacobs called to discuss with me how his vision is changing on who he engages to be on his team. Mr. Jacobs opined that sometimes you need to spend money to learn and to grow your business.

When you are building your business transition team you should surround yourself with trusted advisers. Most business owners utilize the services of a lawyer, accountant and a banker, but do not consult with them in an advisory capacity. The definition of an advisor is someone who gives advice, particularly someone who is an expert in a field.

Owners are busy with the operations of the business and often do not have the time or the inclination to sit down with these professionals to seek the advice on the growth and transition of his or her business. At the beginning of each engagement, I seek to understand the role the professional advisors for the business. I want to know what role the respective accountant, lawyer, financial planner and banker play in their business operations. I will interview these professionals and learn what their current view of the business is and what concerns they have for the predicted transition. I want to know if and what they are involved in and if their advice has been utilized or avoided.

What I find more often than not, is the business owner has not spoken to the attorney since the incorporation of the business or the creation of their will when the children were small. The contact with the accountant is annual or bi-annually basis to discuss how much tax is owed. If they have a financial planner, they see him or her annually. When I inquire about life insurance policies and the service on the policy, most of my clients have no contact with the person who sold the policy to them and do not understand the benefits and negatives of what she owns. It is common for me to discover that the business owner hesitates to ask other professionals how to run their business.

Are you getting the most out of your team? How and when to you speak to your team members? When was the last time you discussed a strategic plan with them? Call to have a conversation about whether the professionals you engage are technicians or advisors.

Pre-Need Funeral Contracts: Why Everyone Should Have One

alecia-vidika-esqBy Guest Author: Alecia Vidika, Esq.

As a practicing probate attorney for over twenty years, I have seen a lot of post-death “drama” involving many families. It is hard enough losing a loved one, but to be enthralled in a battle with family about where the deceased should be buried is something that can be totally avoided. Yet, countless times, I’ve heard and experienced first-hand funeral arrangements that have not only gone awry, but have been a complete injustice to the deceased. So, think about this: Have you decided how you want to die? Of course not, because you can never choose how you want to die. However, you can dictate the process of your afterlife—burial or cremation.

Now, I have had clients that do not like to discuss death. For whatever reason, it scares them, or the thought of dying is a subject they do not ever want to talk about or even be counseled on when the subject comes up. I never understand this mode of thinking. Do they think they’re immortal? They do not think about what really happens when they do, in fact, die. But, as an attorney that sits at a conference table with the families after their loved ones have died, I’m here to tell you that leaving your family with absolutely no instructions is irresponsible and often, tragic.

Take this for an extreme example: I had a client that was widowed and had seven children whom didn’t get along. When he died, the children were more concerned about his personal property than they   were his burial. And they made a point of purposely disagreeing with each other on cremation or burial. The father never signed any declaration with the funeral home that he wanted cremation, even though his wife had died a year before and he had told two of his daughters that he, in fact, wanted to be cremated like his wife. The funeral director told the family that all seven of the children had to be unanimous in the decision of cremation or burial. And because the children didn’t get along, the father remained un-embalmed for almost one month.  Can you imagine what it costs to remain un-embalmed at the funeral home for a month? This could all have been avoided with a signature on a piece of paper before death.

Even when you think your children get along, things can go awry in cases of sudden death or even terminal illness. Do not leave your funeral arrangements up to your loved ones to decide.  They are stricken with grief and shock, and many times, it is very hard for them to make quick decisions when dealing with death. And if the family doesn’t get along, these last-minute confrontations at the funeral home leave everyone traumatized and the family fractured, sometimes permanently.

I will leave you with this: figure out where you want to be buried and buy cemetery plots, or know if you want to be cremated. Have a family conference with your children, or your parents, or your  extended family, and tell them how you would like your life to be celebrated after death.  Do you want a Mass? Visiting hours? A twenty- one gun salute? A private burial? No burial? Ashes spread at your favorite vacation spot? And if you don’t know, how to you expect your family to know? And if you don’t know, you need to start thinking about it. You are not going to live forever. I guarantee it!

Marketing and Communications Done Right is Branding, Not Bragging

By: Amy Wirtz

When I was at the Top Ten Producer Seminar in Chicago, I attended a seminar on branding taught by Brian Deverman. The quality of the seminar was outstanding. The following is an interview I had with Brian in late February 2016:

Tell me how you got started in this business?
I grew up on a farm in Central Illinois and majored in agriculture in college. I began my career in field sales in the late 1990’s and have gone on to do many roles within the agricultural sector. During my early career, I worked for all the big agriculture companies. My ultimate goal was always to return to our family farm, which I did in the fall of 2014. Soon after returning to the family farm full time we lost a decent amount of acreage. Our family had a difficult conversation and while I am still very involved in our farming operation, I am now doing it from afar while also working in ag marketing and consulting with farmers on their brands.

In 2015, I began working with Osborn Barr. This career allows me the opportunity to work with farmers and yet stay connected to the farm. For me it is the best of both worlds. I like to meet the farmers and work directly with them. When talking to the family farmer, I share our family experience. I was only focused on the farming. I was not focused on the brand. It was a revelation to me that if I was more focused on branding, I may have had different opportunities and a different result.

What is Barnstorm?
When I talk to farmers I hear over and over, “I know I need to do this. I have been thinking about it… but I do not know how to do it.” Barnstorm helps farmers improve their brand. It is marketing and communications services available to all farmers designed to help them to tell their stories to those that matter most, like landowners or the local community. We do this through logo development, newsletter writing, website creation and management and so much more. Some farmers like Barnstorm because it helps solve a business pain point and we make it easy for them. Other farmers that want more individualized marketing and we excel at that too. We meet with farmers one on one, learn about their business goals and challenges, and help them understand what steps to take and what makes sense for them and their brand. This leads to a very specific marketing and communications plan for their farmthat we help the farmer bring to life.

What is the difference between branding and bragging?
Every farmer is concerned about bragging and negative connotations associated with it. Reputation is imperative to the operation of the farm. We help farmers tell the unique story of their farm to help connect to future investors. It is ok to step out in the community differently than other generations did. The next generation needs to do this differently. When the farmer takes the risk to create a brand, it spreads in the community and normalizes the process. Farmers say it helps with employee retention, community involvement, and creates a new dialogue about the business.

What is Agvocacy?
We look at ourselves as the voice of agriculture. Farmers are the best conservationists in our community. We need to help farms connect generations back to the farm. The non-operator needs to understand the connection to the farm. We use this platform to connect to other programs. We have a social responsibility to tell the story of agriculture to the rest of the world that are far from the farm.

How does branding interface with landlord tenant relationships?
Farmers can struggle to have conversations with their landowners. They tend to become dollar conversations rather than how to keep the land profitable. This becomes more complicated the more removed the owner is from farmer. That changes the dialogue. The importance is that as farmland changes hands, the farmers have opportunities when they have a brand, education programs and an identity for the new owner to attach to. Removed landowners will use the internet and search for a web page and image. If the farmer does not do the work for branding, they will miss opportunities.

My Dad’s geographical farming area was about 30 miles, mine is around 60 miles and the next generation will be 100 miles or more. There are now land investors that have no history with agriculture but use farmland as an investment. The non-farmer owner needs more education and relationship management than the active farming owner does. Branding of your farm can help educate the non-active land owner and get your name in front of those types of stakeholders.

What do you see as being the biggest threat to the next generation of farmers?
Land is the oldest asset in the world. The care and management of the land is critical to all people, but more so to the next generation of farmers. Our most precious resource is land. We have been involved in water conservation and land conservation as farmers long before it was hip to love the land. There is a lot of misinformation about the effects of farming on waterways and the general population who do not farm. Farmers want to be part of the solution. Our company helps with the image and the story of the benefits of farmers to people who have no reference or information about farming.

Call Brian with any questions you may have regarding branding your farm.

Brian Deverman
Vice President
Direct: 314-746-1939
Cell: 314-371-5915