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Goal setting 101: Control variables in farm business

Setting your goals for your farm business can be the secret sauce to success.

David Kohl

January 18, 2024

3 Min Read
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The start of a new year is a good time to establish goals. Recently, at a bank-sponsored event in Laurel, Nebraska, a participant asked a basic question pertaining to goal setting. “What is a good way to encourage people to set goals?”

Goal setting is the secret sauce in a world that is very cluttered with information and viewpoints that are often uncontrollable and detrimental to both business and personal health. Goals allow one to focus energy on controllable variables and manage around the uncontrollable ones.

As a society, simple goal setting is often overlooked. In my speeches and seminars, I often point out that 80 percent of the people I walk by at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the largest airport in the world, have no goals. Sixteen percent have goals and lock them in their mind, while only four percent write down their goals. Written goals are unique to proactive and productive performers. There are very few traffic jams in the extra mile!

To get started in goal setting, get out a piece of paper and write down one short-term goal, which would be accomplished in less than one year for you personally, the business, or your family. To encourage goal setting to be more personalized, you can add goals for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

To achieve your goals, it is important to monitor your progress. This could be achieved using a spreadsheet for the business to monitor production, marketing, operational efficiency, or financial key performance indicators (KPIs). To move one toward accountability in goal setting a mentor, peer, financial coach, or other professional can be a valuable partner.

For example, I played in the NBA, or the noontime basketball association, for over 50 years. One of my goals was written in my locker to play 100 days in the NBA each year. Other teammates and competitors took note and we often had 15 or 20 individuals with written goals in their lockers. This practice held us accountable to each other. One individual played over 200 days a year on average for five years.

Longer-term goals are three to five years out. If you work with a professional, whether it is a lender, financial specialist, agronomist, or livestock consultant, this individual should always ask for your goals first. This way they can customize a plan for your specific needs and desires and make sure it is in writing.

I was blessed to be introduced to goal setting in my agriculture classes, FFA, and in basketball early in life at Union Academy Belleville in upstate New York. The teachers and coaches held us accountable, which built confidence and self-esteem. This was often gained through incremental individual and team goals.

Goal setting is a life skill that requires discipline and the right attitude. This in turn can build resilience, improve agility, and increase your options for both professional and personal life endeavors. Goal setting is a basic practice that can lead to stronger business performance and improved personal mental health.

The opinions of David Kohl are not necessarily those of Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

David Kohl

Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

Dr. Dave Kohl is an academic Hall of Famer in the College of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. Dr. Kohl has keen insight into the agriculture industry gained through extensive travel, research, and involvement in ag businesses. He has traveled over 10 million miles; conducted more than 7,000 presentations; and published more than 2,500 articles in his career. Dr. Kohl’s wisdom and engagement with all levels of the industry provide a unique perspective into future trends.

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