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How can we grasp new opportunities if we cling to old or outdated thinking?

Tim Schaefer, Founder

February 1, 2021

3 Min Read
Opportunity sign against blue sky
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As business owners we are good at adding. Adding more acres, more sales, more landlords, and more employees.

More is a sign of success; but at a certain point, more can limit new opportunities. Some opportunities may be growing the farm, succession planning, or building your employee team.  

There comes a time when you have to let go to get more of what you want.

As you plan out this new year, think about what you need to let go of to make room for things that will move you ahead. Holding too long onto things isn't always the best. Here are some examples.

Work – Your time is valuable and there isn't enough time to get all the work done. Every year your time is squeezed even more. Has your role changed but your tasks haven't? 

Are you doing things that others could be doing? It's not that you are too good to do this work, but is your time better used elsewhere as the CEO?

Delegation is vital to free up your time. Delegation is the act of letting go and it isn't easy. Letting go allows someone to do things you once did. There is a good chance they'll mess it up the first couple of times. That's hard to watch, possibly expensive, and yet necessary.

But letting go of these lower-level tasks allow you to focus your effort on working on the business. Maybe it is working on a complicated land deal or doing a better job of marketing. Finding the right people and making sure they are working as a team. Penciling out ways to squeeze a little more cost out of production. Knowing your numbers better than the banker and getting a favorable loan.

Not all work is equally important, and letting other employees step up allows them to grow as well. When delegation all comes together, it's a win for everyone.

Mindsets – U.S. farmers are quick innovators when it comes to production. We wouldn't even think of farming the same way today as we did even fifteen years ago. But are we hanging onto outdated mindsets? 

The mindset that farming is at the whim of the markets, the weather, disease outbreaks, etc., so business planning is useless. This mindset assumes the outcome of farming is given to chance more than anything.

Sure there are plenty of random events and we could argue that unexpected events are the only thing constant. What about those things that are entirely within your control or influence?

You have control and influence over quite a bit of the business side of farming. While you can't write your destiny, creating a multi-year strategy with a budget will make farming less random. You may be surprised at your planning accuracy when three years down the road, most of your plan has come true.

People – Farm labor is so hard to come by that letting someone go is hard. Yet some people do more damage to the team and the bottom line than they are worth. You know who they are. They are a handful of people who give you the most headaches. When you see their number come up on your phone, you groan.

Ask yourself: Knowing what you know now about this employee, would you hire them again? If the answer is no, strongly consider letting them go. It might be best for everyone.

Letting go is hard to do. Whether it's part of a transition plan or a business growth plan, it's not easy. Yet, we can't grasp onto something better if we hold onto the past. The wisdom is in knowing what to hang on to and what to let go. Start the year out by letting go. Only then you'll have room to reach out for the new.

Tim Schaefer is an executive management coach and succession planner for farms and agribusinesses. Read his blog, Transitions and Strategies, at If you have a management or succession planning question, contact [email protected] 

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

About the Author(s)

Tim Schaefer

Founder, Encore Wealth Advisors

Tim Schaefer guides large, successful farm operations, helping them get and keep a competitive edge. His tools are peer groups via the Encore Executive Farmer Network, transition planning, business growth planning, and executive coaching. His print column, Transitions & Strategies, appears regularly in Farm Futures and online at He is a Certified Family Business Advisor, Certified Business Coach and Certified Financial Planner. Raised on a successful family farm, his first business venture was selling sweet corn door to door with an Oliver 70.

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