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Think differently about improving your business

Maximizing farm’s strengths can lead to greater success

One piece of advice farm leaders often hear is to focus on the weak spots in their operation – basically, whatever isn’t going very well at the time. The thought is to then work hard to shore up those weaknesses. This sounds helpful but can also lead to spending time and effort without moving the needle much in terms of business success.

I want to turn that advice on its head and ask you to think differently about improving your operation. When it comes to the business side of the farm, what if we focused on maximizing the strengths of our operation and our own leadership qualities?

Energy to change

A mindset of “maximizing strengths” can be very productive, especially if we’re feeling stuck in some way in our farm business or as a leader. Rather than focusing on the negatives, trying to shore up every weak spot, choose to build on what you’re already doing well. That way, you create more momentum and energy toward positive change.

Focusing on the best qualities and aspects of our operation and of ourselves as leaders might feel a bit strange, at first. It might even feel boastful in some way. But doing this can sometimes lead to greater improvements and change than if we dug into every problem we think we need to fix in our operation.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions to ask and ways to get clear on what’s great about the business side of your operation – and about you as a leader:

  1. Your operation. For most people, noticing problems or things that aren’t working isn’t difficult – but thinking about what’s right or what’s working well might be tougher. That’s because we tend to fixate on things that aren’t what they ought to be more than we notice what’s going right – it’s part of human nature. Work with your spouse, business partners or other members of your leadership team to determine the current strengths of the business side of your farm. Maybe your operation does a great job attracting landowners by having a solid presence in the local area. Maybe you’re top-notch at farm financial recordkeeping and running all business decisions by the numbers. Pick three things you’re doing well right now on the business side. Then brainstorm how to truly maximize each strength into a competitive advantage for your business.
  2. Yourself as a leader. Next, it’s time for some self-reflection. It goes without saying that often we can be very hard on ourselves as farm leaders. We consider only the problematic areas of our own leadership – whether that’s in terms of what we’re doing or not doing. Set those thoughts aside for the moment. You might ask a trusted friend or business partner to tell you what they believe are your top personal strengths as a farm leader. This can give you a perspective you might not otherwise get to hear.

Then, narrow it all down to three top qualities and consider what you might do to further build on those strengths. One action step around financial management skills might be to start working with an advisor for your farm for a bigger picture of what’s going on with your farm’s finances and marketing plans. Above all, be sure to use the positive qualities you’ve reflected on to help yourself build momentum toward more success for the future – both personally and operationally.

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

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