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Sailing through rough seas: What to do when things get off track

We get better, stronger and wiser during tough times

Darren Frye, CEO

October 22, 2019

3 Min Read
close up of sailing boat, sail boat crashing through waves in rough sea
dmbaker/iStock/Getty Images Plus

On the farm, just as in any business or organization, there are times when everything seems to be running smoothly – even without a ton of effort on your part as the leader.

These times of “flow” and smooth sailing feel good. We’re doing well, our operation is doing well, and everything is simply going along as we think it should. We give ourselves a pat on the back. Maybe we don’t give a whole lot of thought to what we could do to improve our operation more, learn new things or become more efficient.

Sailing rough seas

Then, on the flip side, there are times on the farm when it seems that the operation has gotten off track. Often, it’s partly due to factors that are out of our direct control. Problems keep popping up – and then they start to pile up and become bigger and bigger.

Suddenly, things aren’t looking so rosy. We never give ourselves a pat on the back – even when we take smart, effective actions for our operation. In fact, we might start to “down” ourselves more and more – to the point we begin to feel we can’t do anything right. Fear and anxiety begin to take hold.

Here’s something to think about if you’re in one of these “off track” times right now. It’s a quotation attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” When everything is going our way, most of us generally don’t learn and improve as much as we do when things aren’t going quite as well.

Silver lining

The silver lining to tough times is that we will get better, stronger and wiser – if we persist with a hopeful attitude, stay open to learning and seek out the resources and advisors we need. Here are three ideas of what to stay focused on while you work to get your operation back on track – maybe even better than before.

Think big picture. This is important to do regularly, whether you believe things are going well or not, but it’s critical to do when you want to get back on track. Zoom out for some uninterrupted time to think about your operation and where it’s heading.

Why do you farm? What’s most important in your operation? What are your main high-level goals for your operation? Why those goals? What do you need to prioritize in order to achieve them? Asking these questions can point us in the right direction.

Ask: What are we learning? By putting more focus on what everyone in the operation is learning, learning becomes a value within your operation. When employees see that learning is important on your farm, they may start to incorporate learning and improvements into the way they work – and in your operation itself.

What we need to succeed. Every farm operation needs the right set of “others” around it in order to thrive and succeed. This goes beyond employees to include people like the farm’s lenders, suppliers, vendors, dealers and advisors. Getting the right people on your farm’s business team makes a big difference when it comes to getting the farm back on the path to success.

Do you have the right people on your team? Farmers have found that a trusted market advisor can make a difference – as marketing plans can become a constant source of worry and anxiety for many.

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

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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