Six Ways Farmers Gain the Competitive Edge

At a recent conference, I had an engaging and enjoyable lunch with a large animal veterinarian in his eighth decade of life. Like the other veterinarians providing services to our family dairy, his opinions are based off many facets of life and experiences from interacting with agriculture producers. He struck a chord when discussing what he observed his successful customers did over the decades. The theme of our conversation was mindset and attitude.

I also recently had the pleasure of engaging with a group of leaders representing segments of the agriculture industry from production to agribusiness, education, and policy. What mindsets did these individuals bring to the table to be successful?

Articulating Agriculture
One mindset was agricultural leaders need to be more transparent with consumers when connecting the general public to the agriculture industry. As consumers in the U.S. and abroad become more distant from farms, transparency will be increasingly important and challenging.

Recent lawsuits against the agriculture industry by non-governmental organizations are only in their infancy. While connecting to people outside of agriculture is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for ag leaders with communication skills to play an educational role.

Making your voice heard by using technology and engaging with youth groups like 4-H, FFA, and other leadership groups will help spread positive agricultural messages to legislators and the public.

Embracing Change and Collaboration in Business
Educating yourself on better ways to run the business is another critical mindset. Complacency and getting into a rut are killer mindsets in business. Adaptability, embracing change, and more collaboration with individuals with a positive – and inquisitive – attitude will be critical. One young person had a great quote, “No one ever lost money listening to an idea.”

Maintaining Focus and Commitment
A mindset of focus and commitment will not be an option, but a requirement. A three-step process outlined by a young conference attendee provided a capsule slogan: preparation, execution, and follow through. This three-step process works for professional athletic coaches, teachers, agribusinesses, and agricultural producers.

Monitoring Financial Standing
A focus on knowing one's numbers – whether in production, marketing, risk management, or finance – will be key. Developing your system and skill base while aligning your products or services to the market will be a baseline for success. Having a proactive attitude to execute the plan while realizing “base hits” with occasional “home runs” in profit expectations, may be the call to order.

Maintaining Objectivity
Finally, being able to follow through and monitor outcomes with an objective mindset – rather than an emotional one – can keep the business and personal finances out of the ditch. In a world with a surprise around every corner, young leaders are utilizing advisory groups including their agricultural lender as a sounding board and networking team.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
A final mindset permeating amongst the group was to think globally and act locally. Awareness of global trends and positioning your business and personal life to take advantage of opportunities to build a financial fortress for challenges that will occur will be critical. Being careful not to place all your bets on the next big thing or the next commodity economic super cycle and playing the game of life within realities can be a long-term sustainable plan, albeit not glamorous. In other words, think steady like a tortoise rather than quick like a hare. Life is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Mindset and attitude are difference makers, just as the older large animal veterinarian I met with suggested. Maintaining a strong network of people who are collaborative and can think critically will be the seed and fertilizer needed for your business and life.



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