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Are you on track to beat your best? Part one

Know your goals and how your farm is trending.

As the farm grows and changes – and as you move closer to your goals – it’s important to know the progress you’re making. One way to think about consistently getting better is by asking whether you’re on track to ‘beat your best.’

Think of it like a professional athlete might – or a serious athlete at any level, really. The goal? Keep becoming better at their particular sport. Most sports take player statistics quite seriously, so the athlete likely knows exactly what their ‘best’ has been in the recent past.

They know their numbers – the fastest they ever ran a particular distance, or the most passing yards they ever threw during a game. The athlete’s stats and performance over time is being tracked, too.

Coaches and athletes are always trying to figure out how athletes can take their game to the next level and beat a personal best. Training plans and lots of practice and preparation goes into that – and watching whether trends are improving.

How to get better

On the farm, we can think about beating our best in a similar way. One important area is the farm’s efficiency over time. Ideally, it should constantly be getting better and better – becoming more and more efficient. But you’ll never really know where you stand right now, not to mention how you can get better, if you don’t track how you’re doing and look at where the trends are heading.

When you set up and track the right metrics around the farm’s efficiency, you have the opportunity to see the actual trajectory of how the farm is doing in those areas. It can be helpful to understand whether or not you’re moving toward beating your best.

Another way to think of it is that it’s time to start ‘beating yourself up.’ I don’t mean that in a negative way, but in terms of always working to improve on the best you’ve done before. When you take the mindset of trying to do better than your best, it can become easier to notice specific areas where you might make seemingly small changes, yet have a big impact.

Getting a head start

Many farmers want to improve their operations and move along the road to beating their best, but it can often be overwhelming to know where to start. An ag finance advisor or other advisor for the farm can often help in sorting out how to get those improvements rolling.

You might first work with them to get the numbers in order, having an accrual-based, forward-looking financial analysis done of the farm. Then you can set up metrics – that are focused on your farm’s goals – to be measured at regular intervals, to track how you’re doing and where you’re headed.

Sometimes gaining the perspective of an outside advisor can bring in new insights or ideas we may not have thought of. Like a coach for an athlete, an advisor for the farm may be helpful. They can come alongside you to help set up goals for your operation and consider what metrics will be most important to track over time.

Next week, we’ll talk some more about how this goes beyond aiming for higher yields and lower input costs.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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