Successfully Mixing Business and Family
Raised as the fifth generation on a storied commercial cow-calf and horse operation in the Nebraska Sandhills, I was born into the family business. From an early age, I was exposed to the innerworkings of the agri-business lifestyle and watched my parents and grandparents work as a team, balancing the seasonal duties of life on the Diamond Bar Ranch.
As a young girl I learned the importance of a positive family dynamic from multiple generations on the ranch – and vital to that successful dynamic are teamwork, respect, patience and work ethic. While my grandparents, who spent their lifetimes improving the ranch, are gone, the values they instilled remain.
Today, our family-owned and operated ranch relies on my parents, Robert and Susanne Jones, along with myself and three younger siblings – my sister Shaylee, a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL); my brother Grant, a junior at UNL; and my youngest brother, Lance, a senior in high school.
Working remotely in a fulltime communications position allows me to continue my involvement during the day-to-day ranching operations, which is an opportunity I am very grateful for. At 24, I know that successfully mixing business with my family doesn’t just happen. It takes constant work, and it is ever evolving as family members grow, learn and navigate various stages in life. While my family continues to work on our dynamic in the family business, the core of our business is family.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
I believe it is important to keep in mind the crucial roles that each family member plays, all of which are vital to the operation. Everyone’s contributions and ideas are important. Although ranching in this day and age is very challenging, the strength of our family is that, despite long days in extreme elements and making difficult decisions, serving as stewards of the land and livestock is what we love. To me, there is no better feeling of satisfaction than seeing a healthy colt prancing alongside its mother, showing a herd of cattle into a fresh grass pasture or a newborn calf being fiercely claimed by its mother.
Together, my family shares a common goal in the process of breeding a cow or heifer, seeing it born and then spending the summer watching it grow and thrive through weaning, backgrounding and off to the feedyard. We all take pride in knowing that animal was raised responsibly, while simultaneously benefitting rangeland and, ultimately, becoming a wholesome and nutritious product for the world to enjoy.
Having the common goal of ensuring our livestock and land flourish under our care allows us to work together and be immersed in the lifestyle that has given us a deep appreciation for exceptional animal husbandry and grazing land management.
The time my parents and siblings invest when they pause during busy seasons to have teaching moments have and will continue to pay dividends in the long run. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of listening to each family member; respecting each other is vital to a successful family business mix. On both sides of the coin, no matter your generation, it is crucial to be open to learn, have an open mind and be flexible. Hats off to the generations before me for the experiences they’ve gained. Despite the hardships they’ve been through, they have triumphed, and I hold a deep respect for them all.
Capitalize on Your Strengths
As the industry continues to evolve and incorporate more technology, we know that we must evolve with it. That involves trusting each other completely to get the job done, and never hesitating to reach out and ask a question or ask for help. A diverse operation requires many different sets of strengths, and each of us is blessed with a gift intended to make a positive impact on a daily basis. Over time, we’ve learned not only to rely on but to appreciate one another’s strengths and utilize them to make daily operations on the ranch run smoothly. With three boys and three girls in the family, we are equally balanced.
No matter what kind of agricultural operation you come from, work ethic is non-negotiable. Whether you are the one feeding livestock, serving and delivering meals, taking care of paperwork and bills, repairing machinery, working horseback, or sweeping out the shop – remember that your role matters and that your efforts and talents are valued.
Teamwork, respect, listening, work ethic, trust and understanding are all vital aspects of a successful business plan to work with the family.
Photos courtesy of Sam Raetz
Natalie was raised as the fifth generation on her family’s commercial cow calf and quarter horse operation in the Nebraska Sandhills. Natalie graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2019 with a bachelor’s in agricultural communications minor in the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars Program. She is currently in graduate school at Nebraska and is an inaugural member of NCBA’s Trailblazer advocacy cohort. She currently serves as the communications specialist for the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In her spare time, you can find Natalie outdoors on the ranch, riding horses, out for a jog or behind the camera.