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Corn+Soybean Digest

Don't Do Everything Yourself

With the size of many farming operations today, it's impossible to get everything done and be good at it all. As the general manager of your farming operation, you don't have to master every facet of your business. To best manage your risk and limited resources, you may need to hire selected help for selected jobs where you lack expertise.

Over the last 25 years, I've put together a list of characteristics common in successful producers. On that list is: "Successful people know what they don't know and hire it done". That may sound too simple. But it can pay off big on the farm - or in any business setting.

Tractor manufacturers, for example, have other companies making many of their component parts. It increases the efficiencies of both companies.

Recognizing your strengths and competitive advantage is critical. Successful people ask themselves the question, "What am I really good at?" Then they capitalize on that strength. On the other hand, we all have weaknesses. Understanding what they are is a key to success. Peter Drucker, noted management consultant, says, "Even the world's greatest violinist probably can't play the cello."

One of our clients is not good at crop scouting and doesn't like it. So he hires it done. The total costs of hiring crop scouting are small compared to his total costs. This frees him up to do what he's good at, which is record keeping and looking for opportunities. That makes everyone more efficient. Another of our clients hates marketing. So he hires a consultant to market his grain.

"I tried the futures once and lost money doing it, so I decided I'd never do it again," says a northeastern Nebraska farmer. "Finally I hired a market consultant. Now I don't worry when the market goes up or down. I know he's taken positions to take advantage of price opportunities."

Another very successful farmer we work with in Iowa used to take pride in the fact he could "do it all" and didn't need any consultants or advisors. He has now changed his mind and sees the people helping him with decisions as a team of trusted advisors that form somewhat of a management team.

He says, "This concept has added tremendous value to my farming operation, and reduced risk with little added cost."

"Hired help" can be accountants, attorneys, market advisors, business analysts, tax consultants, real estate brokers, or any specialist.

How do you determine what help you need? If you can't do your own analysis, and you can stand a humbling experience, ask your spouse - he or she will tell you! Other trusted advisors could include your lender, or a networking group such a marketing club or other farmers you meet with. Likely those will be the tasks someone else could do better.

One final note: Hiring someone to assist you doesn't mean you give up the responsibility. You can delegate the authority but not the responsibility for seeing that a job is done to your satisfaction. Remember, you're the general manager.

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