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How farms win in the long run

Focus on small, consistent wins rather than swinging for the fence.

In last week’s post, I mentioned that the farm leaders who will ride out the downturn are focused on making small, incremental improvements in their operations – gradually getting better and better over time. I want to expand on that a bit more this week and give some ideas and examples of what that looks like.

When it feels that the general business climate and ag economic environment is unfavorable for our farm operation, it’s tempting to believe everything is out of our hands. We may think that since we can’t control the biggest forces, we don’t have control over anything. Or do we?

Building better

I believe the best farm leaders keep working – bit by bit, idea by idea – when it comes to improving their farming operations and winning over time. They don’t throw up their hands or stick their heads in the sand when faced with unfavorable weather, markets or economies.

Instead, they first look at themselves as a leader and manager, searching for ways to improve. Then they look at their businesses carefully, considering different ways to become more efficient. They undertake improvements that, on the surface, may not appear like much, yet are the right areas to make big change in their operation.

Making momentum

It’s all about moving the most important “levers” within the operation – to achieve the greatest impact and movement toward success. In farming, production is the largest and most obvious lever that every farm leader must pay close attention to. Yet if we focus only on improving production, we miss out on other, perhaps less obvious, key levers to improve our business.

Here are three other “key lever” areas as you seek small improvements to make a big overall difference:

  1. Farm metrics. What metrics do you track for your operation? How are you using those metrics? Do you feel like you have a clear read on what they are telling you about the state and direction of your business? What do you really need to know about your business, financially, throughout the year? How can you get metrics in place to help with that?
  2. The books. Ensuring numerical data is carefully entered and organized in the farm’s books may not be the most exciting aspect of running a farm operation, but up-to-date books – and therefore, financial information – can be a helpful tool when making key decisions throughout the year. Getting good processes in place around things like who reviews the books and when decisions about payments need to be brought to the leader are small, yet important, items when it comes to incrementally improving the farm.
  3. Grain marketing and merchandising. This is an area where farm leaders can often get caught up in looking for the “home run” rather than focusing on getting a base hit. Incrementally improving your farm marketing program and approach begins with a strong understanding of the different tools that can be part of your farm’s marketing strategy. Working with knowledgeable advisors who bring education and leadership for your farm’s 2019 marketing plan is the right place to start.


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

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