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Can farms ever be truly prepared for the unexpected?

Farm leaders: Boost flexibility, adaptability, resilience now.

As a business leader, one thing you often hear is that you need to prepare or make plans in your business for the unexpected. In a year like this, that’s become even more apparent than ever.

It certainly sounds like a good idea to prepare for the unexpected, but can it truly be done? When it comes to unexpected situations or circumstances, they’re challenging precisely because no one anticipated them or thought about them. How, then, is a business leader supposed to plan or prepare for something that they can’t know to expect?

Focus smart

I think being prepared in a farm business for the unexpected has less to do with knowing exactly what you’re trying to plan or prepare for. It has much more to do with creating a mindset of flexibility, adaptability and boosting your leadership ability to respond in the moment to unexpected issues or situations.

Otherwise, a farm leader could drive themselves crazy trying to predict every single potential “unexpected” thing that their operation could encounter. Yes, it’s wise to have plans or procedures in place to prevent certain issues from happening – in particular, it makes sense to have clear safety processes and procedures for your farm.

But no one can predict the future. Leaders could spend a ton of time and effort – with no gain or return whatsoever if they spend too much time trying to predict everything that’s going to impact their operations.

The readiness

Instead, it’s smart to cultivate the mindset and readiness within your operation to respond to unexpected things as they arise. Though you can’t predict or know exactly what challenge farming is going to throw at you in a given crop year, you can say with certainty that something unexpected will probably happen at some point – or multiple things.

Leaders need flexibility and resilience to deal with such situations. Rather than being stuck with one certain plan or response, thinking about a variety of ways to respond to situations – or a variety of potential scenarios that could happen – is one way to practice dealing with the unexpected, in your mind.

How to deal

Practice responding calmly and mentally “taking a step back” from the immediate situation as a leader. This can help reduce feelings of fear or anxiety. It’s most helpful in the moment when you’re first uncovering or finding out about an unexpected situation.

Stepping back from emotion is a good first step. It can help leaders move toward facts, information and focusing on logical steps rather than responding from an emotionally charged place. Getting the data or numbers you need for decision-making is another important step at this point. Knowing the facts and looking at your current business situation is very helpful when making any major decisions.

One area of farm businesses where the “unexpected” can happen is around grain marketing. Fortunately, creating good marketing plans and working with trusted advisors can help take some of the stress off a farm leader’s shoulders. You can talk with our market advisors today.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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