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Modern Farm Business
13 minutes | Jan 17, 2019
082: Finance on the farm
THREE NUMBERS TO KNOW I. Working Capital: The capital available for the business to do its work [CURRENT ASSETS - CURRENT LIABILITIES] gives you a dollar amount, but t only means something if you put it into perspective with a ratio. So we divide that number by our GROSS REVENUE. Let’s plug in a couple of examples with $1M working capital as an example. A Main Street boutique has a gross sales of $500K. Then 500,000 divided by 1,000,000 gives them 200% working capital to gross sales! On the other hand, General Motors did about $150B last year, so if they only had a million in working capital it give us so small a ratio you’d hardly even be able to measure it. Most farms are going to be comfortable keeping their working capital above the 30% mark, so that if a farm raises a million in crop sales, that’s having about $300K of liquid assets. II. Debt Service Ratio: Operating revenue compared to how much is going to be spent paying debt in a given year This speaks to the business’s ability to take on and cover debt. If I have a .8 ratio, my business is only generating enough income to pay 80% of its debts. It’s like a household that brings in $100,000 dollars but is spending $125,000. That extra $25k has to come from somewhere—maybe it’s a credit card at a high interest rate, or taking out a second mortgage against equity they have in their home. Essentially, the household can only do this until its assets run out. The flip side is if our number is a 2.0. That means we are bringing in twice the income as the debt we are paying out. We’re in a comfortable spot, and if we need to take on more debt we have some flexibility. III. True Breakeven: It’s about getting to a per-unit of production cost—not just our inputs—but a real picture. If I own several factories that produce paperclips, I’m not looking at my cost per building as much as I am looking at my cost per clip. But if I’m wasting money in my building, then my cost per unit will go up. But simply looking at cutting costs at the building level could increase my per-clip cost. Maybe I have a high-priced plant manager—the bean counters see that salary as a great way to cut cost. The plant manager goes, wage cost per building goes down, but so does productivity. My cost per clip just went from 1 penny to 1.2 pennies because we were too focused on saving on building costs. For the farm, one of the elements that creates a true breakeven is adding in the non-cash cost of machinery use. Every crop I raise is requiring the use of the equipment I own—whether I’ve bought equipment this year or not. So we want to reflect that in our cost per unit. What our advisors do is take the total equipment value owned by the farm, divide by 10 and add that onto our annual input costs. This ensures that each crop is contributing in a way the replaces the machinery it has used. The one caveat in break-even forecasts is you are going to have to estimate yields. This uncertainty for some can lead them to not even want to think about break-evens until they know how many bushels they have in the bin. But this is where history can help. We start from looking at our last five year of yields, then throw out the high one and the low one. This at least gives us a start—then we can begin looking at what 5% better yield looks like… 5% worse… and so on. THREE DOCUMENTS TO MASTER I. Balance Sheet This is an annual tradition for anyone who owns a business. In fact it’s something households should do, even if they aren’t a business. It’s a statement that gives you a snapshot in time of the assets of the business, the liabilities of the business and the resulting equity of the owners. It’s what you own minus what you owe. Typically this is done at the end of the fiscal year of the business—the consistent time of year allows for year-over-year comparisons of the operation. The balance sheet is a foundational document that every business needs to be on top of, but the challenge with it is that it is rear-looking. It gives you a picture of what has happened, where we’ve been and what the trends look like—as well as insight into risk-bearing ability for the operation—but doesn’t give you a picture of the future. II. Projected Cash Flows This is a forward-looking schedule of when major costs are going to be incurred—like land payments or input purchases—as well likely revenue from things like crop sales. This helps us to plan for the biggest demands on our operating line and be more proactive in our management of the lifeblood of our business: cash. III. Accrual Income Statement When I use the term “accrual” in the farm context, I’m thinking in terms of the crop year for farming. If we use the same information we create for tax purposes, which is typically calendar-year based, we will struggle to make effective management decisions. When using a crop-year approach, I’m pulling in all of the expenses that go into the crop and all of the revenues that come out of it. That could easily cover three calendar years in the process. This is important because if I’m going to make sound management decisions, I need to correctly value what is going into and coming out of each production batch—in this case, the crop. To go back to the manufacturing example, if a batch of hats takes me a week to make, I can’t just look at what materials I happen to buy that week and what revenue happened to come in that week; I need to tie the inputs for those hats, even if they happened many weeks earlier, along with revenue of those hats, even if they happen many weeks later. Farming is manufacturing—it simply takes us a lot longer for each batch we’re making. Utilize the forecast to make adjustments and run “what-if” scenarios so you make more effective management decisions along the way.
13 minutes | Jan 10, 2019
081. Tools for building understanding
Poor communication → Unmet expectations → Frustration & Disappointment “Everyone hears only what he understands” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (scientist & author, 1749-1832) Two big challenges we face in effective communication: Assumptions: Experiences in my head I’m not adding in to the information I’m sharing because I believe you will already know it as I do. “Take the truck west and turn left where the barn was.” I’m assuming you know where the barn use to stand (because I know). “Take the tractor and work that field.” I’m assuming you know how fast to drive, what angle to go and how deep to till. What’s happening around us informs out assumptions as well. Are we in a hurry? Are we tired and emotions are high? Our environment can have a significant impact on what we process and how we take information in. Maybe it’s harvest and I say, “Give the combine a cleaning tonight before you put it away. What I’m not expecting is a that the employee does a full power wash with soap and then waxes the entire machine. It’s harvest—we aren’t going to do that. To me a “cleaning” during harvest is to blow the dust out of the air filter, get the garbage out of the cab and clean the windows—that’s it! Definitions: Simple words can carry wildly different definitions, which can get us in trouble. Here’s a humorous example that happened to a friend a few years ago. He was at a farm auction. He called up his father and said “Hey, they have a couple bins they’re going to be selling. Do you want me to bid on them?” The father said, “Sure, just don’t pay too much,” and that was the end of the conversation. As it turns out, that simple conversation was loaded with miscommunication. My friend—not knowing what “too much” meant because his father wouldn’t give him a number—bid what he thought was a reasonable price and won the two bins. He called his dad to let him know that he had bought both bins for just a couple thousand dollars. Flabbergasted, the father asked what kind of bins he had bought.“Well, they are 5,000 bushel grain bins,” said my friend. “Oh no!” the dad exclaimed, “I thought you were buying bins to hold nuts & bolts in the shop!”So when I say, “Go fast,” what does that mean? How about “slow”? “Carefully”? “Stay late”? “Show up early”? That could mean 5am or 7am...I know some people who would think 9am is early. Better communication results on the farm Know the audience: Understand who you are talking to and be able to dial in the message. Some people will require more detail in the message than others. This flex we do with different people is well-presented in the model known as Situational Leadership. It presents our approach in stages, depending on the development of the other person: • Very low competence = Very directive guidance—very clear, very straightforward and focused on the basics. • More experienced = Coaching communication—less directing the actions and more providing support and guidance. • Very competent = Supportive relationship—more offering our support than our direction. • Expert level competency and confidence = All they need is delegation Communication routines build rhythms on how we communicate with others based who they are and what they need. Lay out when to check in with your landlords—just put it on your calendar (and then do it.) Decide right now when you’re going to have banker meetings. Use a calendar on your phone; send invites. If your banker says he want to meet three times over the year, pick a day/time and send him an invite. Calendar team meetings however they serve the group the best. What’s on the calendar gets done, so schedule it and do it. The medium refers to all of the different tools we have to let us communicate. Never in history have we had more ways to communicate than we have today, and never has it been cheaper! We have face-to-face, phone calls, text messages, emails, instant messaging, Face Time, Twitter, et al. Here’s where wisdom comes to the plate. Which medium will give the best results in any given situation? Choose wisely which way you will communicate with others based on each situation. Texting is always quick & easy, but sometimes too much detail is required so you should opt for a phone call instead. Speak simply, avoiding jargon and technical talk. Nobody has ever complained because someone was too easy to understand. Assume nothing. Of course that’s impossible, but I challenge you to be diligently aware for when you are adding assumptions. When in doubt, ask for clarification Ask for understanding. Ask others to repeat back to you what they heard or what they are now going to go do. You can say, “Hey, I gave you a lot of information there on what I want you to do this afternoon. Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, what is your plan on the project?” “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” - Steven R. Covey (author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) I hope you’ve found some things that can help develop your leadership skills today. If you are looking to grow your business effectiveness, give Water Street Solutions a call at 866.249.2528.
12 minutes | Jan 3, 2019
080. Managing market emotions
EMOTIONS ARE REAL: MANAGING THE EMOTIONAL REALITY OF TRADING The market is an auction. The purpose of an auction is twofold: to provide an environment where buyers and sellers can come together; and to provide price discovery. If a farmer retires and you go to the estate auction, there is one seller—and the more people who show up, the more potential buyers you have. Every buyer has a number and the ability to bid what they are willing to pay. The auctioneer facilitates the discovery of price for each good. The auctioneer is operating as an agent on behalf of the seller—they are trying to get as much out of each item as possible. Good auctioneers get lots of people to show up and they also get people bidding. This is an important analogy to be able to apply to the world of commodity and equity trading. If you’ve ever been the person at the auction to pay way too much for something, you know that emotions can get the best of you in the moment. But the fact is that over time, an auction is the most effective and most efficient way to discover the value of something. That being said, in the short-term auctions can be overrun with emotion. You may see something selling way too cheap—which indicates there is a lack of buyers or more likely too many sellers. The flip side is when you see someone paying more for an item on auction than they would have paid to buy a new one at retail! Auctions are the best price discovery over time, but emotion will get them out of whack in the short-term. Just like an auction, the market is made up of the emotion of its participants Regret: Quite paralyzing. The price of the commodity gets to a level that isn’t quite what we were hoping for and then it suddenly falls. At that moment we now know what we COULD have had for our commodity if we had acted...but we didn’t. Now suddenly our brain shifts into what we think the product should be worth or what we would be willing to accept. But in reality, the commodity is worth what it is trading for today. The best antidote is drafting a script for our future actions: “What will I do when price starts falling?” Greed: This usually plays out in the market as a case of “Perpetual Price Dissatisfaction.” If corn is $3.60, it’s wanting $3.80. When corn gets to $3.80, I now will only accept $4.00. It’s a failure pattern of saying to ourselves that UNTIL I get a higher price, I won’t be happy. The failure of this is that it’s never a high enough price for us to be satisfied. We end up kicking the can down the road until we’ve run out of time on the calendar and we now have to act. How can we counteract greed? One way is to make smaller decisions, more frequently instead. The other tool can be using targets. If I have a good handle on either my projected profitability or, after harvest, my actual profitability—I can reduce my greed factor by using price targets and placing orders at the elevator or in my commodity account. It takes out the risk of wanting to wait until tomorrow to see how price acts and get just a little bit more. Fear: Can be a significant motivator for people. There’s a concept that has grown with social media and contributed to a lot of people’s anxiety—“FOMO” or Fear Of Missing Out. In marketing, fear manifests itself in many different ways: Fear that price is going to collapse further, so I end up selling out on the lows. Fear that I’m not going to grow a crop so I don’t sell ahead. Fear that if I sell, the price will rally later so I freeze. Fear that price can never rally so I sell everything on the first 10-cent rally I get. The key to managing fear is first and foremost to know yourself. Fear is a good thing and it’s a survival mechanism, but taken too far it can keep us from really being able to thrive. Envy: We stop at the coffee shop and someone’s talking about how they sold the high in the market. We hear our neighbor talk about how high one of their fields yielded. Here’s the problem with all of these scenarios: none of them shares all the information you need. The guy in the coffee shop sold one percent of his crop on the high and at the end of the year, ended up getting a worse price on his crop than you. The neighbor with the big yield isn’t talking about his break-even levels or the profitability per bushel. We feel envious of the actions or lives of others, but much of what is presented to the world is far from the whole story. So what can we do? Tend to your own garden first. The farmers who focus on the basics (doing everything you can to lower your cost per bushel) are best equipped to compete in the long run. This gets the focus on a scorecard that fits the game. If I go to the gym and see the guy bench pressing 400 pounds, I’m not envious—we’re playing a different game. Focus on good financials and a fanatical approach to building your own ability to improve your cost per bushel. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn from these others—you can ask the guy at the coffee shop what led him to price it; maybe there is some insight there. The neighbor with the big yield, maybe he has a production practice that you can learn from. But stopping at envy will always be a roadblock to progress. Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 minutes | Dec 27, 2018
079. Thank you for the correction
USE THESE KEYS FOR CORRECTING WITH EASE Avoid looking at correctable behavior situationally. “Bill is consistently late for work. How do I correct it?” This is focusing on what we don’t want and not focusing on the goals of the organization...which means we can end up missing the opportunity to really create what we do want. Do you want Bill to show up an exact time each day? Or do you want him to communicate better about his schedule? Are you worried about the impact of his behavior on the other employees? Or do you simply find it disrespectful? If we only try to eliminate what we don’t want, we probably are going to find ourselves creating frustration in the relationship and not getting what we really do want. Leaders have a responsibility to do some work before we should expect a relationship where correction flows freely and openly. One of the fastest ways for feedback to be rejected is when it comes from someone who does know who they are themselves. They berate others for being sloppy, but you can’t even see the top of their desk. They expect their staff to do everything perfectly the first time, but they continually make mistakes in their responsibilities. Without knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, working on themselves and being humble enough to share their awareness, other employees will question any correction from that person. Clear vision is required for a relationship that embraces correction. As leaders we must clarify what we have for expectations: What we are working create? What behaviors should get rewarded? Give the team the expectations and knowledge to complete the job satisfactorily up front. This sets the team up for success rather than just handing it off and wishing them luck only to berate them later for not doing it correctly or efficiently. Leaders have a responsibility to model the way. It holds us to a higher standard. If we expect our employees to clean the windows, we not only need to show them how but to keep our own windows spotless. If we expect people to be punctual, we can’t be late. We also have to model a willingness to seek and accept feedback. Effective teams have information flowing up and down. We need to have the humility to show how to take correction ourselves. WORK ON YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WORK ON OTHERS. What makes for effective correction? Focus on the behavior, not the person. Focusing on the person can damage the relationship and create resistance. Say, “We want to have all of the parts organized by machine. In looking through storage room, it’s better...but I need you to take another run through, ensuring everything is in the right bin.” Avoid saying things like, “You call that clean? Where did you learn to organize? I’d hate to see what your house looks like.” Learn how to use good questions. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and prematurely offer advice or guidance when we don’t have all the information. However, be very careful using questions that begin with “why.” Why, you ask? Think about it: “Why are you organizing the room like this?” If someone asks you like that you are now in a position to defend yourself. But try it as, “What issues could we run into with this system?” or “How do you see getting everybody on-board with this?” This opens up dialogue and discussion. Ask permission. This gives the other person choice and control. Comments like, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of experience in projects like this; how much coaching would you like from me along the way?” or, “I’ve noticed a few things about your approach—would you want any feedback?” or even, “There are a couple of concerns I have...My question for you is: How honest you want me to be?” make for a far more receptive audience than simply launching into offering unsolicited corrections. It becomes a conversation rather than a one-way judgment session. I hope you’ve found some things that can help develop your leadership skills today. If you are looking to grow your business effectiveness, give Water Street Solutions a call at 866.249.2528.
13 minutes | Dec 20, 2018
078. Yep, it's a relationship business now
DRIVING THE RELATIONSHIP ENGINE OF BUSINESS What’s made relationships so important in today’s business? They’ve always been important. Settling the prairie, the most important currency we had was building trusting relationships to help us purchase cattle, get credit from the feed store, lean on a neighbor for help when necessary...Over time, though, we became less reliant on neighbors and other relationships. Equipment and buyers for our grain were plentiful, and we were busy enough that we lost our neighborly connections. But today’s technological advances open up many more opportunities for community engagement, and also in ways we’ve not been able to engage before. This means bringing different thinking and habits than we had before. Which five relationships have been instrumental in getting you to where you are today? Think about this: was it a parent? A coach? A teacher? A neighbor, your spouse or a good friend? We like to think of ourselves as self-made, but in reality other people often have a hand in providing opportunities, directing our path, sharing honest feedback or helping us when we’re in need--and the odds of our success are closely linked to the size and strength of our relationships. Four behaviors to help us move forward in our relationships: G.A.I.T. Give freely. Some of the most affluent people I know also happen to be the most generous. They give freely of their time, money, wisdom, or whatever can help someone else out. They don’t keep score; they know that right is right, and we are all social creatures charged with supporting and caring for one another. But there’s a danger of taking it too far and leaving no time for ourselves. To give well, one must keep one’s own house in order first. Ask humbly. In our self-sufficient world it can be tough to ask for help. We don’t like to inconvenience others & we don’t like to look like we can’t handle our own situation. But Ben Franklin noted that one of the best ways to build a relationship with someone was to ask them for a favor. It might seem a counterintuitive thing to do, but Franklin had a very poor relationship with a particular gentleman, so Franklin asked him if he could borrow a book he knew the man owned. This endeared him to the man; he was flattered that Ben Franklin wanted something he owned. Asking for help demonstrates humility & opens the door to a different kind of relationship. A caveat: If you borrow something, bring it back as good or better than when you got it. Invest deliberately. Look at your life and business, and assess where your relationships are lacking. Find ways to rekindle those relationships. Author Harvey Mackay wrote: “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Reconnect with others now by taking action, because you might need to rely on those relationships at a later date. Thank generously. Appreciation costs nothing, but it can be the first thing we forget as we hurry to get on to the next thing. Remember, though, that a sincere thank-you can go a long way. Show others that they are important, what they did matters, and that they are genuinely appreciated. Use the Power Thank-You: a) Tell them what they did; b) Acknowledge their effort; and c) Tell them the impact. Example: “Thank you for helping with installing my new window, I know you had other projects that needed your attention on Saturday but because of your expertise we were able to enjoy our family get together the next day. Thank you!” So there you have GAIT for tending to your relationships: Give freely. Ask humbly. Invest deliberately. Thank generously. Our most important role as leaders is to build strong, trusting relationships. I hope there are some insights in today’s episode that will help you do just that! Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at email@example.com. See you next week!
12 minutes | Dec 13, 2018
077. Ideas are easy. Change is hard.
NEW SOLUTIONS! INNOVATIVE APPROACHES! EXCITING POSSIBILITIES! It’s exciting to invent or discover new ways of doing things, or to go to a meeting and leave motivated with someone’s unique approach to business. But one of many hurdles that can challenge us is called the Planning Fallacy—we are generally quite inaccurate when it comes to predicting how long something is going to take to do and how hard it will be to accomplish. But this bias isn’t all bad; many times we can get halfway through an undertaking and think to ourselves, If I had known it was going to be this hard, I wouldn’t have started. The hope is that the thing we are doing is valuable, and that our optimism got us started on something that we may not have otherwise done. It’s good to have this built-in optimism because it gets us going. But there is another element that is much more dangerous—the assumption that introducing the idea equates to implementing it. It happens to the best of us: we decide to make a change, and dedicate ourselves to that change. We probably stick to it for a while, but before long it’s back to our old habits. When these things happen, we might feel discouraged. We spent the money on the new accounting system and we still haven’t switched to it as our $1,000 treadmill sits in the basement with less than a mile on it. Today we’re getting into the key elements of what makes some changes easy and others seemingly impossible—and as leaders how we can approach change differently. FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR SUCCESS IN CHANGE Sometimes we can buy a solution, while other times the solution is a process. Know the difference. If we realize that we are having a problem getting fieldwork done because we are short a tractor, then all we have to do is buy a tractor. If we see that we’d be able to speed up repairs with a cordless impact wrench, the all we have to do is buy the wrench and voilà! Problem solved. Unfortunately, many of our biggest results come from a change in process or behavior instead. Leaders need to be able to distinguish between when buying something solves the problem and when it is just part of an overall process change. Clarify the issue and the benefit of the solution. It’s really easy to fall in love with cool solutions. Maybe it’s some new way of doing things you heard a speaker relay, or a really neat piece of equipment you saw at a trade show—but before you write the check, get clear on what the problem really is: How big is the problem? Is it even worth solving? Once you’re clear on the problem, shift to clarifying what you really want and how the team or organization will be better off after solving the problem. Nobody likes putting effort into something that isn’t really worth the time, or if they have to do it just because the boss said to. Connect with the why to create more personal buy-in to the change effort. Identify the hurdles you will face in the process. For success to happen after implementing a change, we need to be able to look out into the future for potential situations or tendencies that could derail our progress. The leader is required to model the way over these hurdles; to slow down and coach new behavior and expectations. Incorporate the players. Change is usually a people problem. a. Identify who is going to be affected by taking a new approach, and bring them into the solution process—What changes would they recommend to the process? How are we going to support each other in the change? And make sure they and other team members have the authority to hold even the boss accountable for staying on track with the new process. b. Identify other players who are part-time and need to be trained; c. Or it could be family members who like to randomly come by and make a mess. By identifying the players you have a chance to bring them into the solution and communicate what the new expectations will be. Keep banging the drum. During the change process, the leader needs to be consistent in focusing the team on the goal, on coaching people with their little decisions, and regularly bringing people back to the basics of what has to be done differently. It’s catching people doing the right thing. It’s coaching people on the small stuff. It’s training on expectations for new people. This is the real work of leadership. What we focus on grows—which means we can’t focus on everything. We can’t fall in love with every new shiny idea. It’s having the discipline to say “No” to new ideas because you know the team doesn’t have the capacity to add another change just yet. Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week! Episode #77: Ideas are easy. Change is hard
11 minutes | Dec 6, 2018
076. The power of questions
Questions Help Us Focus This episode will cover different areas of a business by asking questions to help identify opportunities. Though you may not have answers for all of these questions today, they will start the thinking process and give you an inventory of questions today that you can use as a reference for future thinking, either for you or your team. Future Questions Having a clear picture of what you are working to create helps guide decisions when things get muddy. An inspiring dream gives us energy when we’re feeling bogged down. And when we’re not around, the answers for these questions create clarity for our team which can help them to stay on track: Who am I working to become? An organization will always struggle to grow beyond its leader, so I need to have a picture of who I’m continually working to become. This should drive reflection of how I’m doing and what I need to be working on. In 10 years, a reporter from a magazine does a story about my operation. What do I want the headline to say? This addresses what you want someone to say about your operation—what’s important to you and you really want to create. People Questions Looking now at the people on your team, ask yourself these questions: What indicators do I have whether my team is top-notch? What behaviors would I see from such a team? How would people in a top-notch organization interact with one another? Now—how does that differ from what I experience with my team today? If there’s an employee who’s giving me headaches—knowing what I know now, would I hire this person today? How would I feel if I got a call tomorrow that this person was resigning? If their resignation wouldn’t bother you, maybe it’s time for a candid conversation. Business System Questions How we accomplish things is a function of the systems in our business—systems which may be written or unwritten: If this person were to be gone for a month, what jobs would not get done? This question helps assess need to undertake documentation of critical systems. Documentation of processes a) forces us to look at how we are doing things and open up further questioning on whether there’s a better way to do them; and b) gives us peace of mind that the critical business systems can continue, even if something happens or someone cannot be reached. Skill & Expertise Questions For effective results, the business must be good at some critical competencies: What is something that I am exceptional at? What comes easier to me than to others? Often we look at our deficiencies first, but it’s just as important to know what you’re good at and have as a business strength. What skills does the business need to move forward? Maybe it’s employee training, coaching from an outside source, honing your own skills in an area—identify competency gaps with potential to hold the business back. Leadership Responsibility Questions What is something only I can do? This question shows the value you give to the business. As the operation grows, you won’t be able to do everything you used to do. It’s important to recognize which things only you can do. What is something you do which you can no longer afford to do? Classical economics says with growth comes specialization. In order to specialize, we have to give up some of the stuff we used to do. Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at email@example.com. See you next week!
9 minutes | Nov 29, 2018
075: The 70-20-10 rule
Episode #75: The 70-20-10 rule For long-term results, divide your time Today we’re talking about being intentional on how we invest our time leading our business. It’s easiest to stay busy with all the immediate demands our business puts on us—a truck in need of repairs, paperwork that the bank needs, a meeting with the landlord, grain to be hauled...the list goes on. Sure, it’s all important, and it all needs to be done—but when tasks consume a leader’s every moment, there’s never an opportunity for that leader to work on shaping the future of the organization. 70-20-10 is a helpful leadership philosophy which advises us where to best invest our time and money. 70% = The core of the business / “What truly matters” Most of our time should be spent getting the stuff done that truly matters to the business: Support the employees, take care of the crop, work with suppliers, etc.. These things must be done—and they must be done well. This is where great organizations exhibit the habit of execution. But we can’t spend every minute working on the business of today. If we don’t prepare the organization for tomorrow we’ll be boosting efficiency at the cost of losing more and more effectiveness over the long-term. 20% = Future planning / “What’s next” A smaller portion of time should be spent getting out in front of our business. This requires a bit more intentionality and discipline because it’s about being proactive rather than ticking off a “to do” list: Have lunch with a potential lender to build a relationship for the future, work on a new skill, research a new piece of equipment or a new tillage program, etc.. These are the things that don’t demand we spend time on them, but for which we must carve out the time—we have to commit, put it on the calendar, and then follow through. Once these behaviors break the ice, we can better steer the operation toward our intended future. This 20% of our time, however, carries two caveats: Be intentional: Think about the areas you want to make progress in for the farm--the skills and relationships you want to develop. Then, get specific—What are you going to do? Where are you going? When will this happen? If you don’t plan it, the day-to-day will squeeze out the time for it—because future work is never urgent. Be reasonable: Don’t fall so completely in love with this “What’s Next” space that you let your core business suffer. I’ve seen operations spend so much of their time going to trade shows, meetings and trips for learning and networking that their crops didn’t get planted on time, their landlord relationships weren’t tended to and their bookkeeping fell behind. This is ignoring the core of the business that actually funds where we want to take it tomorrow. 10% = Innovation time / “What could be” The smallest amount of time should be invested in learning about possibilities: play around with trends, new revenue sources, fresh approaches to business processes. This is your sandbox—the place to fail in the safety of a very small scale, and to learn from those failures. I’ve got an innovative vegetable farmer client who devotes a small parcel of land each year to trying out new products and varieties, knowing full well most of them won’t work out but that small failures can lead to big wins. The same two caveats apply: Pick something and act on it: We’re talking about the far-out stuff that’s easy to put in the “someday” category. Keep it small: The risk is having a radical, game-changing idea—and literally betting the farm on the change. This innovation space is about taking a big chance on a small scale. Likewise, we can’t let innovation consume us and let the core of the business suffer. How do YOU invest your time and resources? Are you doing your best just to get through the tasks of the day? How can you carve out time to sharpen your saw, to prepare the business for what’s next? What can you do to explore innovations that could be the future of your operation? What can you do to start uncovering what the future of your business could be? Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!
24 minutes | Nov 22, 2018
074: Farm communication matters w/ Elaine Froese
Elaine Froese, C.S.P. is a professional speaker, writer and business coach who specializes in helping farm families work through tough issues surrounding succession, business and communication—not only to meet and talk, but to act! Faith Today magazine recently dubbed Elaine “Canada’s Farm Whisperer,” an interesting title for someone who has coached families across Canada for the past 10 years and sat at kitchen tables for over 35 years. Elaine has been a columnist in Grainews for 20 years and appeared regularly on Canada’s national AgVision TV. She is the award-winning author of Planting the Seed of Hope: A Celebration of Prairie Life, Do the Tough Things Right, Farming’s In-Law Factor and her newest book, Building Your Farm Legacy. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors and the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. As someone who grew up on a farm and currently farms with her family in southwestern Manitoba, Elaine understands agriculture from the ground up—and her expertise is sought after across Canada and farming areas in the U.S. Many folks tell Elaine that they “wish they had met her ten years ago.” ONLINE: www.elainefroese.com Twitter: @ElaineFroese Facebook: @farmfamilycoach YouTube: @farmfamilycoach Email: email@example.com NOTES: On potential trouble spots with the in-law dynamic on the farm: The cover of my book Farming’s In-Law Factor features a single brown egg among white eggs. I get a lot of comments from women in agriculture saying, “Elaine, I am that brown egg.” Of course in farming you have two systems, and the family system is highly interlinked to the business system. The In-Law Factor is mainly about daughters-in-law coming on to be a part of a farm where their husband is the successor and sons-in-law coming to the farm where their wife is the successor. When you’ve got people without a farm background joining the family and the operation, first there’s got to be an effort to educate them and provide insight into the farm culture. Second, you’ve got to learn to do conflict well—attacking the problem, not the person. If you can do that, it will lead to more harmony on the farm. Farming’s In-Law Factor is about making sure everyone on the farm team has a voice and that everyone knows what all the roles and expectations are. It’s kind of a textbook for all the ag schools across America that do a communication class...because when you get an ag degree, you usually only do three hours on communication—and that’s not enough. Tools to help us become more aware of expectations we have for other people: On my website I have a free 19-piece toolkit available to help people communicate better and grow stronger on their farm. To get clear about unwritten expectations, one of those tools is the Ultimate Decision Maker—how many decisions are Dad’s full say, how many are the successor’s full say, and how many are they making together? Another is to do the sheet called What Do You Want, or to just talk about it. And I use a Beanie Baby bull as a talking stick, too, Dean. Whoever has the bull in the family meeting is the only one who can talk, and if you want to speak you have to ask for the bull. If you don’t have it, you listen. Another one of my tools is the Key Challenge Audit--A checklist of 32 statements, one of which deals with anxiety over the uncertainty of my future. Frequently young people check that one off because expectations are not talked about and they don’t know what THE PLAN is. On the challenge of being the "brown egg": Marilee Adams wrote a great book called Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. Are you going to become a learner who takes responsibility for the choices you’re making? Or are you going to become a judger and work yourself down into that “poor me” victim mentality? First, are you expressing your voice as a respectful adult? Are you taking the time to collect your thoughts on paper? Do you have positive conflict strategies? Can you put yourself in the other person’s shoes to see their side? Embrace conflict but express your ideas in an open, honest, respectful and constructive way. Stay away from yelling and drama. Also, remember that you get the behavior you accept. If a daughter-in-law is not being treated well, she should write down her thoughts, ask for a meeting with her in-laws (with her husband by her side), do it after lunch and when everyone’s well rested, and address the issue and her frustrations openly. Use the format “I think...I feel...I need...I want...” On common principles at work on farms with successful transitions: First, do not assume anybody is going to retire. A study of Iowa farmers showed that 30% of them say they will never retire, so language matters: “Dad, what is your plan for handing over some of the responsibilities as you age?” It’s also important, as you plan the transition, to lock in target dates and timelines; this helps you avoid what William Bridges calls the “Neutral Zone,” which represents the pain of not knowing. Remember how I said the younger farmers often checked the box dealing with anxiety over the uncertainty of their future? So do the older farmers, but their anxiety is around what gives their lives meaning and purpose as they age on the farm. On tools for the veteran farmer to use in grooming the next generation for farm leadership: They should encourage peer-to-peer networking with other farmers in the next generation. They are great places to share ideas and be mentored by others. That might mean shuffling duties at the farm and making time for it, but it really is necessary. Being a lifelong learner and building relationships with your farm’s team of advisors are also key. I also encourage financial transparency between both generations. It can be a good idea to build a team of advisors together. The families that are more communicative, maintain a culture of learning together, and are more transparent with finances will have better results with mentoring because there are no surprises. A final takeaway from this conversation: I have an old tagline I sometimes used to close out my speeches: “Remember, its your farm. It’s your family. It’s your choice.” Coaches often say counseling is about recovery and discovery. What would you like to discover in this next three months (farming “off season”) about the roles you’re playing in your own life? You always get to wake up every morning and choose your response. What are you going to choose to make it better? Thanks for listening! Questions or comments on this episode? Drop Dean a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
9 minutes | Nov 15, 2018
073. Five ways to win in the off-season
WHERE DID THE SEASON GO? “There’s never any downtime anymore,” is a common lament in agriculture. We pine for times past, when there was a simpler pace and two distinct seasons of planting and harvest. Today we can feel tossed from one season to the next, never having enough time to catch our breath, let alone get ahead. In agriculture we’re beholden to the weather and the seasons; much of what we’re able to do on a given day isn’t in our hands, despite the to-do list in our head. Regardless of that feeling of “12 months of busy”—there are still seasons in agriculture: there’s calving season for the cow-calf operation, there’s planting for the grain farmer, and so on. What we really sense is the continual business of our lives. Every day seems to fill up with a stream of meetings, phone calls and paperwork. We’re connected 24/7 and find ourselves not farmers in the agrarian ideal—but business owners in the modern, entrepreneurial sense. As leaders of the business, it’s up to us to make the most out of every season. Sports teams know that championships are won by what gets done in the off season. “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” - Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Whether you are a CEO, a coach or a general, it’s what you do with your downtime that matters most to how well you do when it’s “Go Time.” To get you thinking about the off season as winter approaches, here are five exercises to help you make the most of it. Key Frustration Process: review and focus on what didn’t go so well this season. These are the opportunities to turn the off season into a workshop for eliminating frustrations. Radical Preparation: Challenge yourself to prepare & plan to a further level than you’ve ever done before. Plan for more eventualities so you’re not caught off-guard. Recharge: Remember we have to take care of ourselves and our families as well as the business. Sometimes that means rest, or sometimes it means getting away or spending time on a hobby. Sharpen your skills: Have to get better every day. In the off season that could mean taking a class at a community college on online through sites like Coursera, Udemy or Lynda; it could mean attending a farm meeting or even a non-farm meeting in town. There IS NO off season: There are only different seasons. Do we look at them as hyphens in-between the “real work of farming,” or recognize that the business of farming has all kinds of seasons necessary for success? In reality you get 6, 10, maybe 15 seasons on your farm. Define them, give them a goal, focus your energy on them, define their purpose, and weave them into your planning and communication with your team and the family. Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at email@example.com. See you next week!
15 minutes | Nov 8, 2018
072: Seven contrarian mindsets for grain marketing
THE CHALLENGES OF BUSINESS Whether it’s manufacturing, retail, the service industry or agriculture—there is something that makes you feel like your business is tougher than others. For farmers, typically a major source of frustration is found in the grain marketing side of the business. That’s understandable because farming—and in particular the marketing aspect—work differently from most other businesses. THREE BASICS OF EVERY BUSINESS: MAKE - SELL - COUNT Make: If you’re in the widget business, the first step is to make widgets. Dry cleaners make clean clothes. Farmers make grains, produce & livestock. Sell: The widget maker uses ads to create buzz in the marketplace, focusing on increasing the perceived value of the widgets they manufacture, This is how they create customers. This is not how commodity marketing works, where the items up for sale are considered “fungible,” meaning the market doesn’t care where it came from or who grew it—all corn fetches the same price. Long-term winnings come to the most efficient producers (Outrun the slowest guy, not the bear) Differences in price happen through time rather than from difference between producers (The quality of the product doesn’t change--just its perceived value) Count: Inventory, bookkeeping, tax prep, etc. SELLING: SEVEN BENEFICIAL CONTRARIAN MINDSETS Uncertainty equals opportunity: Moving markets provide uncertainty that keeps production costs down. A three-year long 20-cent trading range means the market gets very comfortable with what costs can do, but a more wildly fluctuating price, though potentially quite emotional, means opportunity to sell during peaks and added pressure to cost structure because of that uncertainty. Work on the other end of the leash: Most dog trainers will tell you their best work happens here. They can work with the dog, but what matters most to long-term behavior is tied to the owner. In farming, the two ends of the leash are marketing and efficiency. We might be tempted to focus a lot of energy on the “dog end” of the leash (the markets), but if the trainer is giving mixed signals or reinforcing bad behavior (or the farm leader is not concentrating on the efficiency of the operation) then the dog won’t behave properly for long (we’ll find we can’t market ourselves out of a spending problem). Remember the goal: Selling what we’ve raised can bring a lot of emotion into the picture—anger at pricing, regret for not having done something, paralyzed in fear due to the uncertainty—but we need to remember the purpose of marketing: to turn our production into cash. Be clear, intentional & focused. Even Tiger has a coach: Top performers have coaches to provide feedback, offer a different perspective, apply principles to fit the performer’s needs. What does a farmer need to find in a coach? A credible person you connect with and have a relationship of respect and candor. They can be professional-level coaches with expertise in market planning and implementation; they can be informal, like a friend or uncle with a real knack for insight or wisdom. Ready, steady, GO: Get clear on what to do next. “I’ll sell a good chunk when the market gets high enough” is way too vague. How much? How and where will you price it? At what level? Detail allows you to be patient and pounce when the well-defined time is right. Pass me the gravy: Commodity marketers are price takers, which can lead us into a trap of complacency and helplessness. The “gravy” is the little things that we can do to add value without adding much or any cost: growing seed, specialty traits, having access to end-users who are willing to pay more. Gravy goes right to the bottom line, and once enough gravy goes into equity it starts to make a real difference. Finish the learning loop: Don’t make a decision or take an action without viewing it as a learning opportunity. We only have about 40 chances to market our crop, and if we aren’t active learners who look for patterns, biases and ways to improve next time around—we’re doomed to relive our rookie year 40 times. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty, working on efficiency, focusing on what we really want, having good coaches, building plans and watching for opportunities--these all help with continued learning and focusing on our own development. Note: There is significant risk of loss involved in commodity futures and options trading, and they may not be suitable for all investors. Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!
10 minutes | Nov 1, 2018
071. The power of gratitude
In our relationships, words of appreciation are some of the most powerful words we have. KOUZES & POSNER’S* LEADERSHIP MODEL: Model the way Inspire a shared vision Challenge the process Enable others to act Encourage the heart SEVEN ESSENTIALS TO ENCOURAGING THE HEART: Set clear standards. This communicates a standard of excellence and defines success. Expect the best. It shows respect and gives people recognition when they see we have high expectations. Pay attention. Be observant of who is doing what, and catch and recognize people doing the right thing. Personalize recognition. Do not use form recognition letters or throwaway gifts. Give something that really matters to them. Tell the story. The best way to add meaning is to tell a story, add details of why you are recognizing this person. Celebrate together. Make it a group setting. It adds gravity when it’s done in a group. Set the example. As leaders, when me model the attitude of gratitude, it sets a standard that permeates the culture BEFORE, DURING, AFTER: A key practice is to provide strength and confidence to our team at the beginning of a project. Taking this time shows our trust, need and appreciation for the team and each member’s role in it as well as gives the work more meaning. During the project, be sure to check in now and then, watching what’s going on and making yourself available to field any questions. This encourages the process. Afterward, review what was learned. Acknowledge the effort of all that went well, and celebrate the wins while learning and improving from the challenges. TWO ADDITIONAL TOOLS: 1. THE POWER THANK-YOU: a) Say what they did; b) Acknowledge their sacrifice; c) Explain the impact “Thank you for helping to change our flat tire. I know it ended up making you late for your appointment - but because you stopped, we were able to get our daughter to her flight on time. Thank you!” 2. THE MORNING GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: For one week, take a moment each morning to be thankful for something. Starting the day with gratitude can lead to more energy, creativity & resilience. *The Leadership Challenge; James Kouzes & Barry Posner; Wiley; 1987 Encouraging the Heart; James Kouzes & Barry Posner; Jossey-Bass; 1999 for more information visit www.leadershipchallenge.com Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at email@example.com. See you next week!
11 minutes | Oct 25, 2018
070. Learning, knowing, deciding, doing
A leader on today's farm wears a lot of "hats," holding ultimate accountability for every aspect of the operation. This week, Dean explores the four activities a farm leader must regularly undertake to keep things running smoothly. LEARNING: IT IS NOT A “STAGE” OF LIFE. ONCE FORMAL LEARNING ENDS, THE REAL LEARNING BEGINS 1. Learning cannot be delegated. One should not make a habit of telling others to go get good at something instead of tackling it oneself. We can end up handicapping ourself for good decision-making if we put the onus of basic understanding on others. 2. A leader does not have to be an expert on every aspect of the business, but should know enough basics to be able to get the rest of the necessary learning from the doing. It takes mistakes to truly learn. 3. Fostering learning in others is crucial. A leader should create an atmosphere that encourages curiosity and increases learning. KNOWING: SPECIFICALLY, THE PROACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF A LEADER TO STAY INFORMED; “ACTIVE KNOWLEDGE” 1. A leader must take responsibility to take action and know what is going on in the business at all times. 2. This means a leader might have to set up some sort of reporting system to keep them informed of what’s going on. The goal is to be not only knowledgeable, but also informed. DECIDING: WHETHER BY THE TEAM OR THE LEADER, THE ORGANIZATION MOVES FORWARD WHEN DECISIONS ARE MADE 1. There is a decision-making spectrum for leaders. At one end is the leader who wants to only spend time on the big-picture, major decisions; on the other end is the leader who wants to be involved in every day-to-day decision and not entrust anyone else to make decisions on behalf of the organization. Eventually, if growth is a goal, the latter will have to begin loosening their hold on daily decisions and entrust them to others—or else they themselves will bottleneck the company’s growth. 2. Be clear about the goal. It can be easy to lost track of what we’re doing when blinded by everyday decisions. 3. Look for more than simply two options. Find new and creative ways to solve the problem. 4. Evaluate each option for potential risks and rewards. Might a certain choice be an impediment down the road? 5. Take action before you have 100% of the information. You could gather information literally forever if you wanted to. At some point we have to be satisfied with the data we have and commit to a course of action. DOING: TAKING ACTION BEFORE THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY CLOSES, BUT NOT TOO EARLY 1. If we wait too long—learning, gathering information or trying to decide—the team can see us as a timid and uncertain leader. If we charge into action without spending enough time in the previous three steps, we can be seen as impulsive and reactive. 2. Be clear about the goal. It can be easy to lost track of what we’re doing when blinded by everyday decisions. 3. Look for more than simply two options. Find new and creative ways to solve the problem.
9 minutes | Oct 18, 2018
069. Find your operation's Critical Number
It’s 1983. The farm economy is wracked. International Harvester—one of the largest companies in the world—is failing. In Missouri, a dozen managers scraped together $100,000 in cash and borrowed an additional $8.9 million to buy the International Harvester plant they worked at. Today, that plant—which became SRC Holdings—has become one of the most successful companies in the country. To give some perspective: a 1983 investment of $1,000 in Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway would be worth about $170,000 today. $1,000 invested into SRC in 1983 would now be worth about $4.7 million. How did they do it? Exactly what did they do? KNOWLEDGE IS POWER These managers applied a powerful belief: the best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate an organization is to educate everyone on the business, give them a voice in saying how the company is run, and provide a stake in the financial outcome—good or bad. Leadership knew that the company had to have insane focus, they needed great decision making at every level, and the team needed to share in success. This led to the creation of a new kind of open-book management they called The Great Game of Business. FINDING THE “ONE THING” Key to their system is the alignment of activities every day across the organization with what is most important for the long-term health and success of the organization. This leads into the one specific element of The Great Game of Business I want to focus on this week—it’s what they called the Critical Number. In the film City Slickers with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance, Palance’s no-nonsense, wise-but-wisecracking character, Curly, noted: The key to success in life is finding your One Thing. Nothing else matters. Do that One Thing, and do it well. Everything else will fall into place. Here’s how that applies to The Great Game of Business: A few years ago, Southwest Airlines knew there were a lot of things they had to do well to thrive in such a competitive industry—they needed to lower lease costs, increase the number of repeat customers...the list goes on. But leadership knew that having too many goals would make it difficult to create focus or impact, so they worked through all their key areas to look for the One Thing that would trump all the others. What they settled on was an operational number called “Ground Turnaround Time.” They knew that if they could lower the amount of time the plane was on the ground from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, all kinds of great results would follow. Faster turnaround meant needing fewer planes, fewer gate leases, lower labor costs and countless other benefits. They aligned the entire organization with this goal. They trained the ground crew, revamped boarding passes, made adjustments in the flight crews, and more. This centralizing goal of reduced turnaround time allowed the organization to focus on mastering the one thing that mattered most instead of doing a whole bunch of things that were only fairly important. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MY OPERATION? Unlike the companies in the above examples, most farms don’t have thousands or even hundreds of employees. However, in The Great Game of Business, no matter the size of the organization, the principles are the same: focus attention on what truly matters, coordinate activities, and track progress. Critical Numbers are going to be unique to each operation, and they might even change from year to year. It signifies what’s important to the business right now. Analyze your own operation. Gather a team with good perspectives on the business and share views, open up dialogue around topics that arise, explore them candidly, and develop a list of potential key areas for improvement. Prioritize that shortlist, and turn the top challenge into a goal for the business in the coming season—with an actual target. Pull the whole team in by explaining what the goal is, why it’s important, how everyone can affect the number, and how progress will be tracked. Also, make sure you’re having regular meetings to give updates on the Critical Number. Using the Critical Number approach forces us to dig into areas that really need improvement, gives us focus on what really matters, and creates efficiency of communication. Thanks for listening! Email me questions & comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about The Great Game of Business! Get the expanded & updated book at Amazon, or visit greatgame.com for all available products or to become a coach yourself. See you next week!
26 minutes | Oct 11, 2018
068. Exploring ag, the environment and regulation w/ Dr. Jay Lehr, Ph.D.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is the science director at The Heartland Institute. Lehr is an internationally renowned speaker, scientist, and author who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government, as well as many foreign countries. Lehr is a leading authority on groundwater hydrology. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he went on to receive the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers. Lehr is the author of more than 1,000 magazine and journal articles and 36 books. He has spoken in front of thousands of audiences on topics ranging from global warming and biotechnology to business management and health and physical fitness. He invariably receives the highest scores for entertaining and energizing even the largest audiences. NOTES (paraphrased): On global trends affecting the food supply chain Advances in ag technology have made it so that we can now grow enough food on this planet to easily feed its population of about 7.3 billion, and we will certainly be able to feed a population on 9 billion, where I expect it to top out in the next 50 years. Any starvation left in the world is actually politically motivated rather than a question of being willing or able to produce the food. World ag news is all positive, so we have to figure out how to keep American farmers in the black and happy with their career. On long-term global competition for U.S. ag exports Right now we are looking at competition from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ukraine and Russia. We have advantages over much of the world: We have 12,000 miles of contiguous rivers to move our products with ease; we have the best ag technology in the world. There will always be competition, but we will always stay ahead--if we continue to work harder to stay there. On water supply challenges in the western U.S. We’ve learned over the past 30-40 years how to irrigate crops ten times more efficiently, and we’re still learning. Drone scouting advances have been incredible for this business. We’ll always have to use water sparingly in the west, but we’re applying the knowledge we have and getting better at making an impact. In truth, it’s not as desperate a situation as headlines would have you believe. On the growing chasm between what the consumer believes they want vs. what we understand from a producer viewpoint The U.S. consumer economy dwarfs that of all other developed countries. Our ag industry could survive with a lot fewer exports because we have so many people to feed and we have the infrastructure to get it to the people. However, there are anti-ag forces working against conventional agriculture. We’ve been faced with organic food now for a couple of decades, and there is zero evidence that eating organic is any healthier than eating traditionally grown produce. Organic farming isn’t great for the environment because it requires far more land and it still uses fertilizers and pesticides, just not factory-manufactured ones. There are no advantages to organic farming. We’ve also got a spate of lies going around about genetic modification. It’s all over the grocery store: “No GM in this product,” but not a single person has ever gotten sick from eating a genetically modified food. And the manufacturers have to go through all these ridiculous hoops to get a GM grain approved between the FDA, EPA and USDA. The best thing the average person in ag can do is to spread the word and let people know the truth: There are no advantages to organic food and no downside to GM. On the influence of Silicon Valley, venture funds and investments on opportunities in agriculture Lots of investment in ag. On one side there’s a lot of spec trading in commodities, which constantly affects the pricing. I always advise farm audiences to have a marketing advisor because typically if someone’s really good at farming, they’re not great at marketing; why not pay someone who focuses on marketing 24/7 to advise you on navigating that vital and extremely complicated part of the business? It’s an inseparable part of making a living in agriculture. On sharing a different perspective on government crop insurance subsidization with non-farming people Farming is more subject to the vagaries of weather than most other occupations. Unfortunately, farmers cannot control the weather, so you never know when a 200-bushel per acre crop is going to turn into a 50-bushel per acre crop with a huge change in the weather. That’s why there are minimal subsidies that help farmers. Now, we’re talking a subsidy of something like $.60 on the dollar, so nobody wants to actually have to cash in on that, but it assures that a farmer doesn’t go out of business with the right coverage during a disaster. People who think it’s a form of welfare that isn’t necessary need to realize that’s just not true. On getting policymakers to understand the plight of farmers: the “magic wand” question The magic wand has already been waved. It’s happening. We’ve had a string of Secretaries of Agriculture who did not have the best interest of ag at heart. I’m excited about Sonny Perdue--he grew up in agriculture, he’s a veterinarian, and he’s done a phenomenal job so far with the Trump administration. We’ve already gotten rid of a number of regulations that were impeding agriculture in this country. I waved that wand two years ago on Election Day. On the work of Heartland Institute We are a free-market think tank with the goal of getting the government out of your wallet and maintaining the free market in the United States. We work in four areas: Environmental science, education, budget and tax reform, and healthcare. We put out four newspapers that go to every elected state official in the U.S. containing objective information germane to state issues and legislation currently under consideration. We are roughly 35 employees on a budget of about $6.5M per year almost completely funded by individual, private donations. Thanks for listening! Questions or comments on this episode? Drop me a line at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you. To learn more about the Heartland Institute and what they're doing in the world, visit heartland.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
12 minutes | Oct 4, 2018
067. The power of opposition
People are happy to avoid tension whenever possible, but opposition is actually very healthy to face. Opposition creates that tension when we are forced to adapt and think. Rather than shying away, we should seek to *increase our comfort* with discomfort.
9 minutes | Sep 27, 2018
066. What Google learned about great teams
Google loves using data to answer questions. When it came to the question of what makes some teams more effective & productive than others, they compiled their own data from nearly 200 Google teams & came up with 5 common contributing factors for success.
12 minutes | Sep 20, 2018
065. Seven tools for redirecting stress
Stress is a result of change in our environment--in itself, not a bad thing. It can push us to grow, or weigh us down; the better we understand our own reactions and the causes of stress in our lives, the better we can learn to manage those responses.
26 minutes | Sep 13, 2018
064. "Help! My family farm is a business!" w/ Jolene Brown
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! WWW: jolenebrown.com Twitter @JoleneBrownCSP Facebook: @jolene.brown.710 Youtube: @jolenebrowncsp MEDIA: 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 jolenebrown.com/shop! NOTES: 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: They put specific things in writing (managing people, business overview, dealing with conflict, code of conduct, etc.) 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. 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: 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 Don’t underestimate peer groups and mastermind groups for helping you get outside perspectives; go to workshops; network 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. PARTING WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT 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.
8 minutes | Sep 6, 2018
063: Measure twice
MEASURE WHAT YOU WANT I recently built a garden shed, and as I was measuring a stud to cut, it suddenly struck me that no matter what cut I was making, I never measured the bit I didn’t want--I always measured the part I was going to use. But how often in life and work is our focus on that little leftover scrap of wood we don’t want? I don’t want lazy workers I don’t want to be overweight I don’t want to be broke I don’t want bad yields I don’t want people making mistakes We’d never build a shed with instructions stating only how much to take off each piece, yet it can be tempting to focus our emotion on things we don’t want. “POSITIVE MEASURES” Farming and America’s quest for higher yield = Proof that what we focus on, grows! Year vs. U.S. Corn yield 1930 = 30 bushel/acre 1960 = 60+ bushel/acre 1980 = 100 bushel/acre 2017 = 176+ bushel/acre RISKS OF A NARROW FOCUS Caution: When we concentrate on a narrow focus, we risk tunnel vision and losing perspective of overall goals. We can get so focused on that singular goal that all other aspects of the business or our lives fall away. Obsession with weight, diet and exercise can create risk of anorexia. If we worry only about our retirement account, we miss out on enjoying today. Pursuit of huge yields could cause us to ignore the overall goal of profitability. Billy Beane (of Oakland A’s) understood this and began looking at players’ “on-base percentages” to uncover undervalued players. This approach, made famous in the hit book and movie, Moneyball, brought one of the lowest-budget teams from a .400 season to a .630 season in six years.Remember: You get more of what you measure...but you have to temper that with a consistent vision of the “Big Picture” to keep from going astray. TIPS FOR MANAGING MEASUREMENTS ON THE FARM What do you want for your farm 10 to 20 years in the future? Keep that vision in mind, and use it to guide your decisions. What key measurements do you need to be making regularly in order to stay on track for that vision? Create systems and habits for performing these measurements so that you’re never operating in the dark. When checking the numbers, determine what and if any action needs to be taken to make improvements. Thanks for listening! Do you have any questions or comments on this or any of our other episodes? I’d love to hear them. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond as soon as possible. I really appreciate hearing from our listeners. Keep those comments and suggestions coming in. Until next week...
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