Lynn Tate is among my closest business relationships. After we’d practiced law together for, say, fifteen years, we began a joint farming operation in about 2000. After we bought our second farm, Lynn, as our critical thinker, confirmed that T & R Farms needed to develop strategic markets for our farm.
As we grew from an 880 acre farm to a 6,600 acre farm, T & R Farms took many steps to develop our trade area’s dairy industry. Lynn and I thought we were developing a dairy market for our farm products. As it turned out, T & R Farms’ efforts were transforming the Underwood Law Firm’s law practice.
But, let’s a take step back. When I talk about the T & R relationship, I say that T (Lynn) & R (Alan) grew up, at the same supper table, on the east and west sides of the Texas Panhandle. We both were raised poor and with a religious foundation. Lynn’s (T’s) and Alan’s (R’s) poor and religious “raisin’s”, followed by a multi-year law practice allowed us to simultaneously discuss numerous issues.
The T & R Farms communications-abilities, relationships and marketing efforts confirm many Ranch lessons and successes. T & R Farms began with the Bud Snead’s referral of the Zaitz opportunities, followed by developing the Thompson Ranch, continuing with development of the Beck Ranch, and prospering with the Dettle Ranch. While T & R had developed a few U.S. opportunities, we’d also helped twenty-five families move to the United States, mostly from the Netherlands, with a stop-over in Denmark. The earlier ranches and moving the dairies in to the United States, positioned us as the go-to lawyers for a larger ranch transaction.
The most important ranch lesson from T & R Farms’ activities is that partners must unashamedly and unselfishly share all potentially information, in a timely manner. In General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams, he refers to this as “shared consciousness”.
Because Lynn and I were double partners (law and farming), each of us quickly began to share all information we knew. In addition, we each shared our insights, suspicions, and the possibilities about which we each dreamed.
As I’ve recollected the actions, insights and activities, I’m proud that Lynn and I grew up, at something of the same supper table, on the east (Lynn) and west (Alan) sides of the Texas Panhandle. The similarities of our church and family backgrounds allowed Lynn and Alan to speak in shorthand and to simultaneously discuss four or five issues as we “shared consciousness”. The “shared consciousness” was frustrating to anyone else riding along in the pick-up truck but synergistic for Lynn and Alan.
A “Ranch Lesson” learned is the importance of working with smart folks and developing strategies for “shared consciousness”. Regrettably, many choose to hoard opportunities and information. This ultimately results in losses of position and opportunity.
Find smart folks. Shamelessly and unselfishly share information. Then, build team (see Ranch Lesson #1).
Alan Rhodes is a shareholder in the Underwood Law Firm. Combining his legal experience and business acumen, Alan assists clients with corporate, commercial, nonprofit, and private enterprise issues. This article is not intended as legal advice. If you seek legal counsel regarding a specific business law matter, please contact an attorney.