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How fast can your farm pivot?

The farms that can do this quickly will thrive into the future.

There’s no sign that the pace of the ag operating environment is going to slow down anytime soon. In fact, it may continue to move even more quickly in the future. I believe the farms and farm leaders who are doing a great job of being ready to make changes in their operation will also be the ones thriving both now and into the future.

Being ready to make changes quickly when necessary can be practiced and prepared for – so that when the moment comes, the farm is ready for “go” time. This all comes down to bringing more agility into the operation so that you can “pivot” quickly when you need to.

Get ready

Being able to pivot for your farm’s advantage usually means you’ve done several things ahead of time. Then, when the moment of opportunity, or change, or unforeseeable circumstance comes – you can start moving almost immediately in the direction that you need to.

The opposite of being ready to pivot quickly is being caught off-guard or “flat-footed.” Everyone has probably felt this way at some point in their lives, whether they run a farm business or not. It never feels like a good position to be in.

With some preparation and work, farm leaders can become more ready to pivot and caught off-guard less often, even by situations or circumstances with unknown elements and big impacts. Here are a few suggestions to help bring more readiness to pivot quickly in your operation.

Pivot prep

  1. Know your farm’s current situation inside and out. Get a clear handle on your farm’s current financial situation and get updates done regularly. Figure out the handful of metrics that give you the birds-eye view to answer: “How are we doing right now?” Always have a sense of what your farm can and cannot tolerate, risk-wise, and then be able to test it out by running financial scenarios. This knowledge is the starting point from which you can pivot quickly, when necessary.
  2. Think ahead about possible scenarios. Don’t try to predict the future – you’ll be wasting your time and energy – but do consider realistic possibilities ahead of time. Scenario planning is helpful because you have the opportunity to see where your operation would stand. You then have time to think about and talk through the moves you would make if that situation actually happened. The key here isn’t thinking that one of the scenarios is going to really happen – it’s the fact that you’ve already thought and talked through what you would do in a particular case. This gives you an advantage when the real thing – whatever it happens to be – actually takes place.
  3. Prepare your mindset to react with agility. This can be one of the toughest parts of equipping your operation with more pivoting power. Your mind has to be prepared ahead of time in order to do the necessary mental “pivoting”. In the moment, this can be really hard. If a farm leader has already planned and knows exactly what they thought they were going to do, it can be a challenge to pivot quickly. You can work to build a more agile mindset by thinking about alternatives in decisions you’re currently making.

The market can throw a variety of pivotal scenarios at farmers in any given crop year. It can help to have a partner to talk through these decisions for your operation – get in touch with our market advisors.

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