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Business mindset, intentional culture, shared goals and values all play a role.

Darren Frye, CEO

February 21, 2023

3 Min Read
Aerial view of Midwest farm
Getty Images

When you think of the word ‘professional,’ what comes to mind? You might think about something looking a certain way – very sharp or put-together. Maybe you think about the way things are done, such as following a particular method that involves certain steps or processes.

Maybe it’s more of an overall sense of how everything fits together and comes together to create a certain consistent look, feel, and experience. Each person’s definition of what it means for something or someone to be professional will be a little different.

Getting professional

Do you consider your farm to be a professional operation? What does that mean to you? You might think of another farm operation you know of or have visited that you consider to be a very professional operation. Maybe this is something you’re doing on your own farm.

There are a couple things that come to mind when I think of farms that are run as professional operations. First of all, when it comes to being a professional farm operation, it doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the operation in terms of number of acres farmed, revenue generated, or number of side businesses. It primarily has to do with the mentality of the farm’s owners and leaders.

The mentality I typically see in the leaders of the top professional farms is this: Run everything in the farm as a business. The reality that many farms are owned by families or families in business together does not mean that the operation can’t be run as a business, where the numbers primarily drive the decision-making.

It does mean that the leaders must be very intentional to bring a business and financial mindset into all the decision-making, even with decisions where it would be tempting to place other considerations first.

Shaping it

Another factor that’s usually in place on professional farm operations is that the leaders are very intentional to shape the farm’s culture in the direction they want it to go. The farm’s culture encompasses everything about how the people on the farm get things done.

That includes everything from how people work together, how others are treated when they visit the operation, how people communicate, to the values that are shared. It extends to how the leaders make decisions about employment and how people know whether they’re doing a good job in their role. All of this also comes into play when it comes to the major shared business goals that everyone is working toward in the operation.

The main thing in a professional farm operation is that the fact that the farm owners are running a business is always top of mind. By shaping their own mindsets first, and the farm’s culture next, they can help ensure that the operation attracts other like-minded people – such as employees, landlords, lenders, suppliers and advisors.

This often leads to a feeling of consistency throughout the operation – no matter who others from outside the operation are interacting with, they can still tell the level of professionalism from whoever they interact with in your operation. That’s an attractive thing to others on the outside – and it can, and should, bring feelings of pride for the farm’s leaders that they’ve created a professional farm operation.

2023 markets

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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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