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Corn+Soybean Digest

Hire RELIABLE Self-Starters


Winning teams hire people who match the characteristics of entrepreneurs.

Often we make the mistake of hiring people we think would make good employees rather than looking for other characteristics, like traits successful small-business owners possess. Here are some characteristics you can look for:


Look for people who tend to tackle the unknown, do things in new and different ways, and offer more solutions than excuses.

Risk Taking

Everything we (or our employees) do involves risk. Some people are more comfortable than others with taking risk. It needs to be middle of the road. Look for the mountain climber attitude rather than a gambler.

Self Confidence

There is a happy medium between being too shy to ask for help and overly confident.

Hard Work

To Winston Churchill, hard workers were “fortune's favorite children whose work and pleasures are one.”

Goal Setting

You can help by helping employees answer the question: Where are we going? Employees can share the goals of your farming operation as well as setting personal ones.


Everyone wants to lay the blame on someone else when something goes wrong. The best way to find this trait is to see if employees can admit when they're wrong. That's the real test of character.

Train To Win

Often we hear the comment: “If I train them they will leave me.” I like Zig Ziglar's answer to that. He says, “The only thing worse than training them (employees) and having them leave is not training and having them stay.” Training is an investment that pays big dividends.

Training doesn't have to be costly or involve much time away from the job. It may involve sharing information about the operation with employees.

One producer I admire for his ability to keep employees told me, “We open all of our books to our employees. They know we need to make money to stay in business. We have never had an employee violate our trust by sharing things they shouldn't.”

Another client with good management skills has two long-term key employees of eight and 14 years. At the last two seminars he's brought one of his key employees along and paid his way. I think that helps explain why he has employees who think like owners.

Think Like An Owner

Owners are constantly trying to answer the question about how to do more with less. Hard work, innovation and persistence are all positive characteristics to look for in employees. In fact, the best comment you can hear from an employee is, “I treat this operation like it was my own.” This means not only treating equipment and livestock like it was their own, but the people they work with as well.

In the next issue we'll address more points on hiring and keeping good employees.

What Kind Of Coach Are You?

Part of having a winning team is being a good coach. Here are some suggestions that can make you a better coach.

  • Encourage employees to set goals. Your employees should know your organization's goals and the part they need to play in achieving them. But they should also be encouraged to set personal goals, like spending time with their families.

  • Give employees freedom to be creative and make mistakes. We're often too restrictive with employees. Consequently, they can't come up new ideas or new ways of doing things. Describing the end result rather than assigning a task will foster this type of creativity.

  • Lead by example. Setting high standards for your own performance can be the best coaching you can do. Admit your mistakes. Make every effort to handle problems calmly. Have a positive attitude.

  • Ask rather than tell. This is not always possible, especially when time and execution are critical. But asking for employees' ideas or commitment can motivate them for superior performance.

Moe Russell is president of Russell Consulting Group, Panora, IA. Russell provides risk management advice to clients in 15 states. For more risk management tips, check his Web site ( or call toll-free 877-333-6135.

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