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5 Traits Successful Farm General Manager

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What does it take to be a successful farm general manager?

We at FamilyFarms Group work with many farm families trying to answer that very question.

Every successful GM must demonstrate these traits:

  • Leadership style and focus
  • Proper people handling
  • “Systems thinking”
  • Control and deployment of key assets
  • Short and long-term continuous improvement


Let’s briefly look at each of these areas.

working2.jpgFirst and foremost, a successful GM needs to be a good leader. His or her work style, approach, focus, ethics and intensity are all key characteristics that will help the business capitalize on opportunities, respond to issues, and always move forward.

Second, a good GM recognizes that people are the most important asset of any well-run business. They are your secret weapon, the competitive advantage of the business. The GM is responsible for equal and fair treatment for all employees, while constantly driving for innovation and improvement.

Third, the GM must consider all points of view, a total “system thinking.” Normally the GM is stronger in one area of the business; most advance through the operations side of the farm. The successful GM must realize he is now responsible for all aspects of the business; e.g., selling the crops, financials and dealing with banks, landowner relations, HR, etc. He does not have to know all of these areas in great depth but he must consider all decisions and ramifications with the perspective of the entire system (or the entire business) in mind. Therefore he must have at least a working knowledge of all areas.

Fourth, the GM must care for and protect all key assets of the business. This includes hard assets such as tractors and grain sites as well as intellectual property; e.g., processes, procedures, training, etc. The successful GM must not only protect these assets, but must also constantly improve them for the betterment of the organization.

Fifth, any successful organization must constantly improve. Resting on your laurels is a recipe for disaster. The successful GM must be nicely prodding and pushing for new and innovative improvements in all areas of the business at all times.

General Managers always look for ways to improve

Finally, the trait of striving for constant improvement must also be on a long-term basis. The successful GM must take considerable time throughout the year to look for strategic improvements to the business. We here in FamilyFarms talk about a 75/25 split. The GM must spend at least 25% of his time focusing on long-term improvements to the business. This will ensure that the business which is successful today will remain so well into the future.

By: Jeff Haferkamp, COO of FamilyFarms Group

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