Many of us may struggle when it comes to general decision making, let alone farm decision making for our ag business. Hesitation and uncertainty can impede your farm’s progress. Here are some techniques that will help you when you face those difficult decisions moving forward.
Farm owners are bombarded with situations requiring decisions on a daily basis. The majority of the time, you are fine with making decisions that arise as part of day-to-day activities. Those on-the-fly decisions are often easily handled based on years of experience. But what about those outside-the-box decisions? When should I grow the business? Is it time to diversify? Does the potential profit outweigh the risks? Major, life-changing decisions normally come around four or five times in your lifetime on the farm. If you fail to act, you could miss a powerful opportunity to enhance the quality of life for the next generation and the general growth of your business.
How to Be Better at Farm Decision Making
Let’s take a look at a few techniques that will provide self-assurance when you’re faced with even the most daunting of decisions.
Take Mom’s Advice & Avoid Mental Blind Spots
As a young adult, I had a real aversion to balancing my checkbook. If one thing was true in my life, it’s that I was too busy socializing with friends to focus on any sort of adult responsibility. The results of this were transposed numbers, transactions that failed to be recorded, and an artful mess of mass proportions to sort through.
Once a month I would sit there with my bank statement, pencil, and calculator to begin unraveling the monster I had created. This disheartening task often left me frustrated, stuck searching for some error that refused to be found. In a frustrated huff, I would call my mother, convinced that even the most skilled of mathematicians could never restore order to the chaos before me.
Mom’s suggestion was always simple: “Chris, I know you feel like you have to solve this problem right now. Walk away from it for the evening, and you’ll see the problem tomorrow.” I would be so irked by her advice. Come on; there was a problem that needed a solution, and I was just the man for the job. However, at some point, I would take her counsel and walk away. And you know what? Every single time when I came back, the issue almost immediately unveiled itself.
When it comes to farm decision making, we often get stuck on the problem at hand, and that creates mental blind spots. Those blind spots mean we are unable to see the whole picture clearly. We fall into the same habits that were hindering me from solving my check register predicament. So take some time away from the decision. Send your brain on a short vacation and then return in 24 to 48 hours with eyes wide open. You’ll be amazed at how some time away brings clarity to the situation.
Monitor Your Passion
Whatever you’re thinking about right now, STOP… Take a trip back in time to the day you decided to join the family farm, purchase your first few acres, or acquire a farm from an individual you’d been working with. The opportunity for diversity in job activities, throwing hay bales, and working outside most days was very appealing. There was a devotion to building or continuing the family heritage and an eagerness to contribute your own ideas to enhancing what your forefathers had bestowed. When you can get back to that peaceful mindset is when you’ll truly be ready to develop excellent farm decision making skills to help your farm now, and in the future.
As you mature in the operation, you start understanding things about farming that you didn’t know when you decided to come back to the farm. The weight of the world seems to fall on you because you now make choices that affect your farm, family, and employees. You probably try to be objective, but it’s hard to do. Eliminating emotional biases that could influence your decisions feels restrictive because we are built for logic and emotion.
Surely you have heard of a “pros and cons list,” a decision-making tool used by many business owners to gain clarity and organize thoughts:
- Concept: Clearly articulate your idea.
- Pros: List benefits to the operation, staff, family and any possible financial return.
- Cons: Define objections and risks.
This comprehensive look will lay out the paths before you, providing a road map that can guide your farm decision making through an enriched, formulated thought process to the best decision.
When you are making any kind of decision, you will find that there are plenty people who are willing to offer advice. A rule of thumb is to find and network with individuals who have accomplished the goal you are attempting to achieve for your ag business.
In today’s environment, there are a plethora of ways in which to educate yourself through your farm decision making tasks. Technology allows us to Google search, read blogs, watch YouTube, or listen to podcasts. I encourage all of these activities when making an ag business decision because they allow you to digest information through touching, seeing and hearing. These three senses allow us to absorb information that may have been missed when relying on just one means to learn.
The only word of warning I have is that not all information is created equal. Find content from trusted sources and individuals who practice what they preach. Processes can be taught, but nothing beats experience.
Take a Look at Reality
I’ve heard Aaron Lee say that farming operations tend to spend time and money on activities that provide a very little return to the operation. Think about it – you go to conferences or read about the latest trends in farm magazines. These trends are normally very generalized and seldom fit the specific needs of your operation. Technology gives you the access to information that specifically applies to your farm. This allows you to make decisions based on your reality. Stop looking at generalizations that bring little to no return and take a look at what your agronomy, production, financial, and inventory management data is telling you about your farm.
If you’re not sure where to start with ensuring data quality, analysis or implementation, consult with qualified experts who can help. Explore real life stories from our members in the FamilyFarms Group case studies.
Look at Things in a Different Way
In 1989, Robin Williams starred in a movie called, “Dead Poet’s Society.” There was one scene that had a profound effect on my life. Robin Williams, a.k.a John Keating, stood on top of his desk and asked the students of a Vermont boarding school one simple question, “Why do I stand up here?” Mr. Keating’s goal was to teach his students that it is important to get out of your comfort zone and look at things in a different way. Choosing to look at things from a different perspective can broaden our horizons and teach us that the world doesn’t always function in the way we think it does.
When in the middle of your farm decision making be sure to take every opportunity to look at your business from a different perspective. One simple way of gaining a new insight is by asking other individuals to review your plan. No man is an island, and another’s perspective may allow you to find possibilities you hadn’t considered.
When entering into any new venture, it is easy to have momentum – until the excitement subsides. Unexpected challenges present themselves and falling into old habits becomes tempting. At that moment you need someone to help you to stay on track. Accountability is key. Find a partner or advisor who will meet with you regularly to review what you’ve accomplished, discuss next steps, and help you stay on track with your farm decision making capabilities.
Let the Experts Help with Your Farm Decisions
With years of experience and the strong desire to preserve a farm’s independence and understand its goals, the FamilyFarms Group is here to guide yours to success. Explore our free resources section to gain more in-depth knowledge of important aspects of successful farming, and we invite you to consider a free needs assessment: