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How to turn obstacles into opportunities

Treat everything as a chance to improve or learn something new

In our farming operation, it’s a fact that we’ll encounter challenges along the way – both in our daily activities and in dealing with the business side of our farm. These obstacles can range from the very large and confusing – to the rather small and easily solvable.

But what really matters is the way that we view those challenges – not only in terms of what we decide to do about them, but also in how we learn from them and use what we’ve found to make us as leaders and our operations better in the long run.

For greater success

This is a key mindset to take. We already know we’re going to be dealing with challenges and obstacles in farming. By looking for the learning opportunity within the obstacles, we’re making the challenge ultimately go to work for us and for the greater success of our farm operation.

Otherwise, we might get caught up in a “victim” mentality, viewing the challenges we face in our business as something that’s personally against us, rather than seeing it for what it really is: an opportunity for us to get better instead of getting bitter.

Three examples

I want to share three examples of when you can apply this thinking directly on the farm. However, this can be applied to any obstacles you face, whether in business or personal life.

  1. Your employee screws up. Let’s say your employees really messes up an assignment you’d given them. First, it’s key to consciously set aside any immediate emotional reactions you may have when you hear about or discover the screwup. Next, decide how you’re going to use this particular mistake as a teaching or training opportunity for your employee to learn something new. The end result? Your employee has become more valuable with the new knowledge and ability they’ve gained and will be able to apply it in future situations. The bonus is that you’ve kept your relationship with them intact by deciding to contain and redirect any negative emotions you have about what they did.
  2. Factors outside of your control are affecting the operation. When factors out of our direct control – let’s say, weather, markets or government policy – begin to impact our farm in a negative way, we have a choice. We can decide to become angry and frustrated, or we can decide to make our operation better to withstand these challenges. The ultimate goal is creating an operation that’s good enough to survive and thrive despite the outside factors that are and will always be out of our direct control as farmers. This might mean internal improvements such as working on better efficiency in a couple key areas of your business, or spending more time working on risk management plans, including marketing and merchandising plans.
  3. Unexpected challenges keep coming up in your operation. When a new challenge arises internally, consider it another opportunity to get better as an operation. Ultimately, having different, flexible ways of accomplishing your farming goals makes you less reliant on certain ways of doing things, which makes for a more agile and less risk-exposed operation. Having to change plans quickly can also be a blessing in disguise. Learning how to design a different way to accomplish a goal makes you a more creative thinker, which translates into more creativity in problem-solving in other areas of your operation.

The next time you come up against an obstacle or challenge in your operation, consider how you might look at it as a learning opportunity, and then come up with a plan. You can talk with an advisor for the farm for more ideas on how to do this.

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

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