Here's an idea worth considering as you make plans for your farm and family for 2019. Start the New Year by envisioning the end of the year.
I read that line in an advice column about setting New Year resolutions.
Begin at the end. There's some native logic to it. After all, how do your kids solve maze puzzles? They probably put the pencil on the end of the maze and trace their way back to the beginning.
The idea is widely talked by self-help gurus, life coaches and business consultants. Once you know where you want to end up, backtrack and lay out the steps to get there
A couple planning tips I've come across are:
• Be realistic about where you want to end up. If you want to sell corn for $15 per bushels, that's probably not realistic given the market. (Well, come to think of it you were selling corn squirrel feed like they do at Tractor Supply Company stores you could probably get $45 per bushel.) When I was on a tour of Jorgenson Sand and Cattle Company at Ideal, S.D., several years ago, Sandy Smart, a South Dakota State University professor, asked one of the Jorgenson partner how they built their business. It's an amazing grain and cattle company. They sell bulls all over the U.S. How did they get where they were today? The answer was that they grew it incrementally, step by step, one thing led to another very slowly. They didn't have a plan per se, but they did have a goal of always looking to improve their businesses a little each year.
• Set specific, measurable goals. Experts says we want to cut costs in 2019, it would be better to say we want to cut costs by 2%, 5% or 10% — something specific and measurable.
• Make sure you can track your progress. In the case of cutting costs, incremental goals might be saving 2% of your seed costs, 3% on your chemical costs, $1% on your fuel bill. The steps add up.
• Keep it simple. Don't overwhelm yourself too many goals.
• Try one new thing. I think part of any farm plan for 2019 should include trying something new. Maybe it is planting cover crops or no-tilling on a few acres. Maybe it is trying a new product, joining a marketing club, or attending a meeting you haven't been to before.
• Write down your goal for the year and post it someplace you can see it every day. Allen Juliuson and his sons post the amount of money they have to gross on every acre to breakeven on the wall in the shop. It helps them focus on the goal, they say. It keeps everything pulling together, too.
Begin-at-the-end advice isn't just for business.
It sounds kind of morbid, but some life coaches advise you write your obituary. Imagine the end of your life. What do you want people to say about you? How do you want to be remembered? Then, figure out what to do to make that obituary ring true.
Maybe a better idea is to imagine what you want said at your 80th birthday party. Who do you hope will be there? What do you want them to say? I bet it won't be that you've run the biggest, best farm or ranch in the world. It will probably be how you enriched their lives.
Good luck in 2019.