Ron St. John of Trenton, Fla., has been instrumental in building four dairies in Florida and two in Georgia. The farms have more than 20,000 cows and 16,000 replacements, control 18,000 acres of crops, and employ more than 250 employees.
St. John's management philosophy offers plenty for any farm business-person to think about:
1. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
2. Look in the mirror. You'll see the reason you're in business, or not.
3. We like to do business with successful people, and share in their success.
4. Businesses, and businesspeople, have responsibilities to their communities.
5. We strive to make sure that the people we do business with make a profit, too.
6. Business is a two-way street. Do not take advantage of people with whom you do business.
7. The only way to motivate people is to create an environment so they can motivate themselves. Most people want to do a good job.
8. We are proudest of our people and try to help them grow. There is no such thing as good, cheap labor.
9. Hire people you like. Motivating people involves making them feel wanted, needed and appreciated. That's hard to do with people you do not like.
10. Match authority with responsibility.
11. Think with your head, not your heart.
12. Do not let emotions run your business. If you cannot justify it financially, don't do it. If you try, it won't work long term.
13. Return on assets rows the boat.
14. We're price-takers, so cost control is key. A dollar saved is more than a dollar earned. Cost control is a matter of self-discipline. The worst thing for cost control is a good year.
15. In the short term, cash flow is more important than profit.
16. You must grow a business at least at the rate of inflation. Growth is an aid to cost control and allows you to be very competitive in rewarding your key personnel.
17. Only expand with profit.
18. Your people are your most valuable resource.
19. Measure efficiency with net dollars per employee.
20. Success is determined by understanding your business, getting things done through your people and working harder and smarter than your competition.