September 22, 2020
Wow, this is the one-thousandth article of this publication, but who is counting? It is hard to believe that I have hit this major milestone. A few years ago, at a dinner with my former basketball coach and team members, some ribbing occurred about who would be the first to one thousand. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted my coach’s quest for 1,000 wins, leaving the Hall of Famer’s total wins at 989 games. Thankfully, I was able to plow through to the summit with this publication!
This edition will be longer than usual and will flash back to the year 2000 at the Sun City Resort in South Africa at a meeting of international agricultural futurists dialoguing one evening around an open fire pit. Let's open the door of possibilities in the future of agriculture that may have occurred from that period of time, before the first Road Warrior of Agriculture article was written.
On that day, our discussion centered on the possibility of adverse events such as a major terrorist attack on the United States within a year. These leaders were connecting the dots of possibilities of September 11, 2001, prior to the event. Next, with the increase of biotechnology and biological adversity, these leaders thought that a major, global pandemic would occur within 25 years. Fast-forward to COVID-19 which has disrupted global economics and wreaked societal and political havoc. Next, the group predicted that a major cyber satellite or technology grid attack would cripple some of the major economies around the world within the next three decades. The outcome of this forecast has not yet come to fruition.
Other discussions involved the rise of the consumer and the splintering of the food and fiber markets; biotechnology would be challenged by consumers, but would be a major component required to feed the world; and water would replace oil as a limiting resource. The list went on and on that evening.
However, some of the significant events that shaped agriculture over the spectrum of these writings were missed. No one predicted the great commodity super cycle spurred by China and other emerging nations. This price boom brought profits and technological advancements to agriculture. No discussion occurred around plant-based meat alternatives, non-dairy products, or the rise of ethanol and other oil alternatives in the energy market that quickly emerged on the agricultural landscape. No one predicted the agricultural economic reset after the super cycle, which did not create a 1980’s scenario and the collapse of the farm real estate markets as many expected. Of course, government support payments to agriculture are still going strong, despite efforts to create equal and competitive footing in trade deals. As some of this analysis from our predictions in the year 2000 points out, forecasting the future can be hit or miss.
In this one-thousandth article, let's reflect on some of the philosophies and pearls of wisdom that have been shared in this column over the years. I hope this article spurs you to think critically and provide input for a vision of the future.
Black swans or unusual events generally occur each decade. The COVID-19 pandemic, The Great Recession, the 9/11 attacks, oil price shocks, rampant inflation, and interest rate swings are just a few examples. These macroeconomic shocks can be in conjunction with one or two baby black swan events such as weather events, disease outbreaks, or other major business disruptors. The point is to plan for the unexpected with A, B, C, and D alternatives. When we say a “new normal” or “it is different this time,” a complacency philosophy has already prevailed. Complacency in your business and personal life is often followed by a disruptor showing up at your front door.
Next, black swan events accelerate change in business and society, which generally creates volatility and abrupt cycles. These events are difficult to predict, but a proactive mindset can provide the foundation to take advantage of opportunities and implement blocking strategies in case of adversity.
One size or one method of operation in agriculture does not fit all. Some producers will go high-tech, but the level of high touch or personal expertise must be employed. Others will utilize resource minimization or a low-tech mode of operation, while some will employ both strategies. Either business model must align with both domestic and global markets.
Finally, a few words of wisdom that stand the test of time:
Better is better before bigger is better. Get more efficient before expanding your business.
If it grows too fast, it is a weed. Businesses often outgrow financial and management expertise, which creates problems.
Cash and working capital are queen in the game of business chess. They allow one to seize opportunities and implement blocking strategies.
Production efficiency was the economic divider of the last century. Business IQ will be the difference maker of the 2020s.
The level of opportunity and success or failure is dependent on your mindset. Focus on the variables you can control and manage around the uncontrollable variables.
Watch how individuals in leadership positions treat their frontline people. This tells you much about their character.
Be careful of victims and know-it-alls. Victims blame others and know-it-alls have forgotten how to learn. They will drain your energy.
Stay out of the high-tech trap of urgency. With some planning, focus on the important items versus the urgent. If you do not control your time, others will.
Very few businesses go broke paying income taxes. Find the balance between profits and taxes.
The best crop you will ever raise will be the young people in your life. Be a mentor, educator, or a supporter of youth organizations such as 4-H and FFA. These organizations are a great investment!
Article number 1,000 is in the books! Many thanks to my team for allowing the Road Warrior of Agriculture articles to come to life with suggestions and edits over the years. This is not bad for an individual whose college English professor read his paper in front of the class as an example of very poor writing. This adverse event almost caused me to quit college. However, a good pep talk from a friend that evening provided me with the encouragement and guidance needed. In the end, this experience led me to be a better teacher. The lessons learned in the school of hard knocks and learning from failure can often be some of the best lessons in life!
Source: Dr. David Kohl, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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