For Long-Term Success in a Family Business, Think Like a Farmer

  • First Bank
  • 03/02/2021

By MICHAEL DIERBERG, Chairman of the Board, FB Corporation (First Bank)

For those of us who live and work in cities, the world around us is the here and now. Everything is new. We work in office buildings that are probably younger than most of the people working in them. The tools we use to do our jobs didn’t exist 10 – 20 years ago. We use things and then discard them. Given our surroundings, it’s not surprising that often our perspective is narrowly focused on what is directly in front of us, or the here and now.

Contrast that with the perspective of a farmer. The farmer may live in the same home that his or her grandparents or great-grandparents built. Likewise, the fields and barns have been passed down and tended to by generations before. At night, the farmer has a clear view of the sky as a reminder of a broader picture beyond that day’s activities.

All of this leads to several traits that are common in the farming community: appreciation and respect for the contribution of others who came before; a feeling of responsibility; a long-term perspective; a desire to leave things better off than when you started; and a broader purpose than immediate financial gain. These traits fall under the umbrella of a single concept common in the farming community – stewardship.


What is stewardship?  Stewardship is the responsible guidance and oversight of something entrusted to one's care.  Good stewards understand that they are entrusted with resources that are not entirely of their own making, and they feel a responsibility to make the most of those resources before passing the baton of responsibility to others.

Regardless of whether you are an owner or non-owner employee of a family business, the perspective of a good steward goes a long way toward aligning your actions with the long-term interests of the organization and the community around you.


  • Appreciation and Respect. The perspective of a good steward begins with an appreciation for the contribution of others in creating the opportunities and success of the good steward. Even if the good steward is a first generation entrepreneur who started with very little, the good steward will recognize the contribution and sacrifices others have made along the way to position the entrepreneur for success. Just as a farmer understands that crops don’t spring out from his own hands, good stewards recognize that the resources they’ve been entrusted with present opportunities for which they should be thankful.
  • Humility. The perspective of a good steward is also founded on humility. Humility comes from doing whatever it takes to get the job done, no matter how unglamorous the task. It also comes from seeing yourself as a small, but important, part of a much bigger picture.
  • Long-term perspective. Like a farmer contemplating previous generations who tended the farm and the generations who will come after, the good steward’s perspective is a long-term perspective. The good steward, in any business, favors building lasting value over short-term gain because he or she is seeking to position the business for success even after his or her temporary stewardship has ended.
  • Responsibility. Owners generally owe no duty to the thing they own – they can use it and discard it as they see fit. Good stewards, on the other hand, feel a deep sense of responsibility to dutifully tend to the resources given to them.

Stewardship is what my father passed on to my siblings and me as fourth generation owners of a family business. His perspective as a steward is what gave him deep appreciation for the contribution of generations prior to him, and a feeling of responsibility to the company and to the family to help them thrive long into the future. While under his stewardship, the bank grew from a single office in rural Missouri to a large organization spanning several states and nearly 90 offices. While we now have offices in places like San Francisco and Beverly Hills, California, as well as Clayton, MO, our farming roots and striving to be good stewards, are still never far from our hearts.

  • Helping the Enterprise Thrive. Stewardship doesn’t mean squirreling away resources to maintain the status quo. Just as farmers strive to leave their farms and communities in a better place, good stewards of businesses also want to help their businesses and their communities thrive.

Continuing its fourth generation of family ownership, Michael Dierberg serves as Chairman of the Board at FB Corporation, the holding company of First Bank. To find out more about the services First Bank can offer your business or organization, please contact us.