Last week, I gave a recap of what I experienced at the Ranching for Profit School I attended in Billings, Montana, from Jan. 19-25, and here’s more of the same.
As you may recall, I went into this school with high expectations. Looking back on the time spent, I can say my expectations did not hold a candle to what I actually experienced.
The saying, "You had to be there …" applies to this situation. However, I'll do my best and continue this week answering the rest of the questions asked by my friends via Facebook which I thought worth sharing with my readers.
Q: Many times courses like this help you identify problems, but don't teach you how to fix them. Is this true in this case?
A: Negative. Ranching for Profit Schools are designed to challenge students to critically examine their businesses and their own paradigms. In turn, the instructors and curriculum provide useful activities and tools that can then be used to examine the things each individual has determined to be worth more attention.
To ranch three things are necessary – land, livestock and money. RFP provides practical, real-life business strategies to manage these things. I'll use applied economics as an example to explain. Conventional thinking leads us to believe that a business will not know how much profit or loss it will have until the end of the year. At RFP you are taught it is possible to project your profit a year in advance. This is done through a well-laid-out, seven-step economic planning process.
A rancher with stockers might expect to project stock flows, compile livestock valuations, then develop a trading account. Information from the stock flow can be used to calculate projected cash flows, while the trading account can be used to determine gross product. With those two pieces of information, we can determine gross margin. Once that is determined for each enterprise on a ranch, it can be applied to a projected profit or loss statement.
Students are encouraged to come to the school with financial figures for at least one enterprise on their farm/ranch. After the RFP economic model is covered they are encouraged to go through this seven-step planning process with that enterprise. To make the process even more helpful, the instructors make themselves available after hours to assist the students through this process. If there's one sure thing you will take away from RFP, it is they want you and your business to succeed and they go above and beyond to make sure that happens.
Q: What did you learn from the people (other attendees) you met there?
A: This was likely one of the highlights of my week at the school. I had the opportunity to meet some very awesome people.
When you arrive to the first day of RFP School, you will find your name on a seating list with tables. Each student is assigned to a table at random and each table comprises a team named with a color. I was assigned to the Purple Team along with five others. These five, all guys, were from all over and each had a different story.
We were together each day Monday through Friday for nearly eight hours each day. In addition, we worked with other groups, ate lunch with each other every day, learning from and helping each other along the way.
You see, when you go to one of these schools, you learn more than just the curriculum. You also learn from the wealth of knowledge and experiences that resides in the people with whom you attend the school.
During the first day of the school, Dave Pratt guesstimated that the average years of experience for of attendees at the school was probably somewhere around 20-25 years. This number multiplied by the 60 attendees produces a whopping 1,500 years of experience in one room. That's a lot of knowledge! So when you go to an event like this you can expect your fellow students have much to offer you, also.
Last, you never know who will be there. I had what may likely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Terry McCosker. He was instrumental in making the Grazing For Profit School (an Aussie variation of Ranching For Profit) the success it is today in Australia. You can learn more about McCosker and his consulting firm, Resource Consulting Services at www.rcs.au.com.
Q: For someone interested in getting into the cattle business, when do you think is a good time for them to attend a RFP school? After they've bought land or before? (i.e. When should the newbie attend?)
A: This may be the million-dollar question. The thing is, I can't make a decision on what is right for someone else. I can tell you for me it wasn't soon enough. I had wanted to go this school since the moment I heard about it. Positive reviews from friends and colleagues who had attended the school only added to my desire.
The way I look at it, we spend tens of thousands of dollars and years of our lives going to college. RFP School takes a fraction of the cost and time as college, but you come away with a kind of knowledge that is much more valuable than much of what is taught in today's university setting. In collegiate agricultural degree programs each subject is taught separately and I have yet to see a class that teaches how all of these subjects interrelate and act together in one system. RFP uses a different approach, taking all of these subjects and presenting them in a format that connects the dots. It's a holistic versus reductionist approach. Holism is also known as systems thinking, and it applies more to the real world. In the end it will lead to more sustainable and profitable business strategies.
So when is the best time? To be truthful, you'll have to make that decision for yourself. The best answer I can give is go sooner rather than later. I promise you won't regret it.
If I haven't convinced you already, you can read and hear about other alumnus' experiences at the Ranching For Profit School at http://ranchmanagement.com/school/experience/experience.html.