Many of us at some point aspired to become business owners; much of it went into action. And as we all know, many of us have failed. You may be one of those who made a few problems along the way. Looking back is 20/20, they say and I tend to agree, but our predictions can be greatly improved by learning from other people’s mistakes. I have made a lot of mistakes in multiple business ventures and I would like to share a paradigm shift solution in business operations using the example of my small farm.
I now know that most people of two or three generations have been removed from the last family member who knew the difference between a disc harrow and a spring harrow, but the concepts are transferable in most business models.
In 2015, I started managing my grandfather’s herd. Since I am the guru of anything sustainable and clean, I have pledged to ensure that 1) the beef is free of any chemicals and 2) that the soil becomes richer each year by nutrient circulation (grass that passes through the cows and returns with manure). That last part can be tricky, because cows can destroy the land if they are mismanaged. It is necessary to maintain a good grass cover to ensure that the bare ground is not baked, washed or blown away.
Enter the world of managerial intensive grazing. I can’t cover all the details here because whole books have been published about it, but the concept is for the cows to be limited to small temporary fences made with an electric fence and moved every day. This gives the grass enough time to recover and grow without the cattle constantly returning to the same places and cutting off the most desirable species on the ground. If left to fend for themselves, cows will always overgraze good plants and leave weeds, and before you blink twice, you have a field of weeds and starving cows.
This is the obvious part, but many of us haven’t discovered: you have to feed what nurtures you. I am no longer a cattle breeder. I am a TRAVE farmer. Now obviously I can’t sell weed. Who could eat that? I sell beef, but as soon as I emphasize grass productivity, beef productivity follows. All of my business decisions now focus on grass productivity, not individual cow performance.
Look at your business model very carefully. Don’t focus on the product, technology, tools or equipment. These are just the costs that help you achieve your goals. Take a look at the basics of your business. For many of us, contract or employee work provides a service to our customers. Give your team a big hug and bonus and let them know they appreciate it. Encourage what you can’t easily replace. This is your spine.
Newman Turner once said that the most productive time a farmer can spend is “leaning against a fence post and observing”. Take a step back and look for a paradigm shift. Focus on what matters. In fact, maybe we should transfer this to the personal relationships we have with friends and family. Life cannot be divided into isolated parts, yet the whole is made up of common parts. It’s time to look at the bigger picture.