slide show

 
Printable Page Livestock   Return to Menu - Page 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 10 11 12 13
 
 
MBAg by Adam Erwin            03/28 10:32

   My Farm's Final Four Strategy

   Small businesses make decisions just like teams advance in the March Madness 
basketball pools. Farmer Adam Erwin outlines four bracket-winning strategies 
for the 2014 season.

By Adam Erwin
DTN Special Correspondent

   Have you ever read one of those "Good to Great," "Who Moved my Cheese?" 
sort-of-corporate survival guides and thought, "Everybody raves about this 
book, but where's the pertinent advice about running a successful family farm?"

   In as much as the business coaching world would like a "one-size-fits-all" 
strategy for big and small businesses, that shoe just ain't gonna fit. You want 
to be the one who tells my 84-year-old mother, who has hauled at least 2 
million bushels of grain to the elevator in her 1976 Chevy C-65 tandem, that 
her efforts only achieved five of six Sigmas?

   Small family businesses are totally different critters than big corporate 
business. We work with different tools and often do the work ourselves. Data 
mining for strategies to fling at the masses isn't effective here. We don't 
have "departments" to handle our problems. Routinely, we make do with scarce 
resources and don't have time or the staff to hold meetings just to discuss 
prior meetings. And because we are often staffed by family members, layoffs and 
reassignments can just mean a different set of problems to deal with. Firing a 
family member is just like a redneck divorce. You may not be hitched anymore, 
but you're still cousins!

   Simply put, I think Big Business fails to connect with small business 
because it just can't imagine how we operate without a behemoth organizational 
structure touting all the efficiency and reliability of a Russian combine. At 
the moment, Big Biz has some great ideas trying to transform themselves into 
useful products for family managed farms, it's just having an "Obamacare 
sign-up" moment because it can't grasp how small businesses like ours make 
product investment choices.

   So maybe we can help Big Biz bridge the gap? Explain things in their own 
terms? While watching college basketball this week, a solution came to me. 
Small businesses make decisions just like teams advance in basketball pools! 
Hence, the NCAA men's basketball tourney could double as a framework for 
corporate suits to comprehend product selection process at small, feisty 
businesses!

   To illustrate, I thought I would outline my farm's brackets, basketball 
tourney style, and comment on each:

   FINANCE BRACKET   

   Top-seeded short, ultra-low-interest rates are susceptible to a bracket 
buster here. Paying a bit more to lock in 20-year land money seems like an 
old-school jump-shot team trying to play ball in a "slam dunk"-paced game. Low 
short-term rates may lead at the half, but when the 3% and less money fouls 
out, I'm favoring the slow and steady approach to win the game.

   MARKETING SUB-REGIONAL

   Those that see a "return to overproduction, get it sold" are taking their 
shots in the paint. They are playing defense. On the other hand, those who can 
adjust their cash flow and wait for another supply scare or demand surprise are 
calculating a victory engineered on three-point shots. Reluctantly, I'm 
favoring the outside shooters and their offensive strategy.

   TECHNOLOGY BRACKET

   It's almost Silicon Valley vs. Detroit in this match up. Semiconductors vs. 
mechanical gadgets. Do I invest my time in algorithm-driven planting dates and 
variety choices, available via smartphone apps? Or do I go with 10 mph planting 
technology, complete with titanium high-speed bearings and spoilers to keep my 
planter from fishtailing?

   OPERATIONS

In the oldest rivalry in the tourney, do I invest in infrastructure to keep my 
business competitive? Or rolling stock to increase my production? In a $10,000 
and higher farmland world, with rents to match, I'm not feeling the itch to 
work harder as much as I want to work smarter. I'm not thinking bigger at the 
moment, I'm thinking better! With over 200 new ethanol plants constructed in 
the past decade, I've committed to improving my grain facilities to deliver my 
products when the market wants them the most!

   I know I'm supposed to say that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how 
you play the game. Bracket Busters are likely and big business will have to 
accept that there are more ideas to implement than most family managed farms 
have resources to put them in place. And if you are wondering who won my 
tourney this year, infrastructure beat out software and went all the way! I 
built a big grain set up.

   Editor's note: Real Midwest farmer Adam Erwin is a former banker who writes 
under a pseudonym. He farms more than 10,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat 
in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

    


(MZT/AG)

Copyright 2014 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.
DTN offers additional daily information available free through DTN Snapshot – sign up today.
 
 
Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN