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When you’re not hearing about problems in your operation, that can be a red flag

Darren Frye, CEO

July 8, 2019

3 Min Read

As a farm leader, you’re working hard to create an operation that you can be proud of. However, no matter how great or successful our farm operation becomes, none of us live or work in a perfect world. There will never be a perfect farm business. Problems can and do impact us and our operation.

We must recognize and accept that we will experience issues in our farm business. The next best step to take is a proactive one – using a plan and process when we run into a problem.

No cover-ups

It’s best to make employees aware of such a process and encourage them to use it as well. Otherwise, what happens in most businesses – farming or otherwise – is that problems can get swept under the rug.

If people are unsure about what’s going to happen if they bring a problem to light, then it may end up with a “band-aid” type solution. The root cause of the problem isn’t addressed, so it continues and gets worse. By the time a leader or manager discovers the problem, it might have negatively impacted outcomes in a much bigger way than it originally would have.

Here’s a very basic, two-step approach for a simple problem-solving process you can implement across your operation – from yourself as the leader to all your employees and others who work in your operation.

Step #1: Talk about the problem – with the right people.

It may seem obvious, but failing to bring a problem to the right people who need to know or who can help with a solution is the number one reason key problems in farm operations aren’t getting solved.

When helping employees implement this process, they need to know they won’t be “in trouble” for bringing a problem to light. You might also encourage them to think ahead of several options for a solution. Then they can discuss potential solutions with you when they need to bring up a problem. This helps encourage them to be more proactive in thinking about creative solutions.

In considering this for yourself as a farm leader, think about who you may need to talk with when a problem comes to light on the farm where you might benefit from some outside advice or perspective. This doesn’t mean someone else is going to solve the problem for you, but they may be able to bring up some new angles as you work on a solution that’s best for your operation.

Step #2: Make a clear, detailed plan to solve the problem.

If a problem is brought up, discussed carefully, but no solution plan is put in place, you’ve wasted time. Make sure your problem-solving time is spent efficiently by always putting a clear plan in place, that includes who is going to do what, by when.

The level of detail required here depends quite a bit on the complexity and size of the problem you’re addressing. A relatively “easy” problem might require just a couple action steps written down to discuss with and assign to an employee.

A bigger, more complicated problem might need a meeting with an advisor who specializes in that specific area. They should meet with you to discuss your operation, goals, needs and then create a plan in writing with clear division of who will be taking what specific steps, and when.

One area of your operation that can benefit from this type of process is around creating and executing marketing and merchandising plans. You can talk with a market advisor today about how to get these plans in place for your farm business.

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

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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