I Can Do It Alone…

As entrepreneurs, we generally put our shoulder to the plough and find a way to power through the
work that lay ahead of us. Staunchly independent, we rarely ask for help. I believed that for quite some
time myself…I mean, it’s a pride thing right?

Then my mentor gave me 5 simple words, so impactful and so true, yet these are words we’d never
recognize until someone throws them in our face; “You can’t consult to yourself.”

I can’t build my business alone. I can’t be an expert at everything. There is no way I have enough days in
this lifetime to gather all the knowledge, experience, feedback, networking, and intellectual property to
“do it all myself.” I need help in areas where “I don’t know what I don’t know” and so I seek it out from
others who have proficiencies that I do not. I’ve hired a consultant, and I take part in some excellent
networking associations.

I belong to two ag focused advocacy groups: Saskatchewan Young Ag Entrepreneurs (SYA) and the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA). These
are not lobby groups, or policy groups; they are not groups focused on any one commodity or sector.
They are channels for farmers and farm advisors to share successes and struggles, discuss challenges
overcome and opportunities lost. These are the places to learn what your peers are doing right, and to
learn from their mistakes. Neither increases my workload with committee obligations and the like. Both
groups are completely focused on improving the industry we are all so passionate about.

SYA is a young dynamic cross section of what the future of farming looks like in Saskatchewan. I describe
this group as “the movers and shakers; the future of our industry.” Typically under age 40, these
entrepreneurs vary from small acre grain and mixed farms, to large scale grain operations; from organic
farms to farm advisors/suppliers/retailers. Each member brings something unique to the table.

CAFA is a national organization that is meant to bring together the advisors that help farmers with the
complexities of operating such a diverse entity. This group includes everyone from bankers to lawyers,
agronomists to accountants, grain marketers to tax and financial advisors, management consultants to
farmers (yes, we have a few farmers involved and they all speak very highly of being a part of CAFA.)
This group helps me, as a management consultant, understand more about other opportunities to help
my clients in areas that I am not an expert. We all have the same goal: find new ways to make our
clients better off. I regularly engage my CAFA colleagues when I have a client with an issue that needs
more expertise than I have (like HR strategies, estate planning, etc.)

These 2 groups provide me with a terrific combination: one group helps me stay on top of what is
keeping farmers up at night by listening directly to a diverse collection of farmers face to face and not
hearsay or coffeeshop chatter; the other group helps me strengthen my skills and my network of
qualified peers who can help me help my clients. I value each of these groups equally, and work hard to
never miss a gathering.

CAFA has regional chapters that meet monthly. Always with a topical presentation from an industry
expert, it’s 1-2 hours once per month (usually over breakfast or lunch.) The annual provincial conference
(yes, each province has one) is scheduled in the winter.

SYA meets a handful of times each year, mostly because the membership is busy farming!
But their PreSeeding Social, their Provincial Farmer’s Golf Tournament, Field of Dreams Tour, and Winter Convention
are always informative but most importantly, FUN!

So if you’re still reading, you may be wondering why I have dedicated an entire article to these two
associations. It’s simple: both are agnostic in their focus (as long as it’s AG,) both are tremendously
beneficial to me and my business, and both have found themselves generally flying under the
radar…meaning neither gets much press in print or on TV/radio. Neither operates with a big budget to
afford more advertising, yet both need to have more attention paid to them because of what they bring
to the table.

Direct Questions

Who do you turn to for feedback, when you need a sounding board, or if you want to learn about
firsthand experience on a new topic, idea, or strategy?

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had a mentor, or someone who has been down the same road
you’re travelling?

Have you found yourself facing a situation or dilemma where you didn’t know what to do or who you
could call for help?

From The Home Quarter

It is funny how easily we can become an island, feeling alone in our own world with little opportunity to
change the situation. Social media is great, but it cannot ever replace human interaction. It doesn’t have
to be that way. There is always someone who has faced the same battle you are facing today. There is
always someone who has expertise in an area in which you feel overwhelmed. There is always someone
who knows someone who knows what you need to know (referrals go both ways!) Membership in
either of these associations is an investment in yourself and your business.

If you’d like help planning your farm for business and personal success, then call me or send an email.


Emotional Decisions: Business’ Achilles Heel

I bought a used truck last week. Since I am no longer actively farming, I decided that my beautiful ¾ ton
diesel was more truck than I needed. It took me 2 years of searching to find that truck, so some people
are astounded that I would be selling it. It was still a terrific truck, and had nothing wrong with it.

During my search for another truck, I learned bits of info here & there about the good, bad, and
otherwise regarding the models I was interested in. It’s always a challenge to sort through the noise of
those who are die-hard loyalists who cannot see anything adverse about their brand and of those who
are inherently negative and cannot find anything good to say. How does a person decide?

I wanted the replacement truck to be in the 2011-2013 range. I faced the same challenge we all face
when considering a major purchase: can I find what I want within my price range, do I accept less than
what I want to stay within my price range, or do I pay more than I planned to get what I want? In the
modern age of “instant gratification,” our society typically pays more than planned.












While some options on my list were important, others weren’t. When considering the Ford F150, I was
firmly on the fence over engine options: 5.0L or EcoBoost? As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of noise
about these engine options. I found a consistent message between 2 salesmen and felt that was the
most honest feedback I have come across. When describing what I need out of this truck, and why I was
on the fence, one salesman replied, “Well you’re just taking the emotion right out of this decision, aren’t

Yes. Yes I am.

The fundamentals of what makes a good decision are often clouded by emotion. We get so caught up in
the “want” that we blow right past the “need.” And since we as a society will typically pay more than
planned to get what we want, it creates a perfect storm. This storm has eroded balance sheet equity for
many, and left others upside-down on vehicle & equipment loans, but always negatively impacts cash

Direct Questions

How often have you let emotion take over your decision making process?

Do you avoid making a business case for each decision because it will prove the emotional argument to
be the wrong one?

What impact are you feeling from past emotional decisions?

From the Home Quarter

Removing emotion from business decisions is a key benefit that my clients enjoy. It allows my clients to
experience greater confidence in their decisions by having me filter through their emotions. I am not on
your farm each day, so the emotion of why you’re making the decision is not felt by me, thus allowing
me to see through it and keep you on track.

The truck I sold was rare because of its features and options. It had incredibly low kilometers for its age,
and needed nothing (I’d been through it front to back over the last 2 years.) What I felt for this vehicle
was almost on the verge of love (although I have never “loved” or “named” any of my vehicles, ever.)
And while it held a special place with me, it’s a truck, a tool, an inanimate object and completely
replaceable. I sold it when I did because I knew I could get maximum value for it now. A year from now
would be significantly less. It was advertised on Friday afternoon, it was sold by Saturday, and picked up
Monday. I found the truck I wanted the Thursday before, and picked it up a week later. I took the
emotion out of the equation.

Allowing emotion to influence your decision making is like putting on blinders: all that can be seen is
what you “think” you need and no other options appear available. Let’s take the blinders off, remove
emotion from the equation, and see if we can make a business case that offers an appropriate ROI.

If you’d like help removing emotion from the decisions you make for business and personal success,
then call me or send an email.


Getting It Done

Alan Weiss is my mentor’s mentor, so naturally I subscribe to Alan’s work. One of Alan’s recent
newsletters contained a short piece about The Human Condition: Procrastinating.

Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of it at some point. Alan writes, “We procrastinate out of sloth (I don’t
want to get up); out of fear (what if it’s not good enough); out of lack of consequences (they won’t do
anything about it); out of ignorance (I didn’t know there was a financial penalty after that date). We all
do it, it’s not a matter of obliterating the habit, it’s a matter of priority.”

While all of the farmers I speak with (be they clients or not) have never procrastinated at getting
equipment ready for the field, many admit to procrastinating when it comes to management of their
business data, analyzing information, and pretty much anything to do with bookwork.

Is procrastination a matter of priority and not habit? No argument that doing books isn’t a lot of fun;
shuffling paper in an office (or at the kitchen table) isn’t a task that everyone is fighting to do. Yet it is
clear to all of us that there is significant, sometimes immeasurable benefit to keeping our business
information current and up to date.

I am very proud of one of my clients this week. He was facing a very uncomfortable situation that will
lead to further discomfort as time goes on. We had discussed an idea or two to possibly defer the
immediate pain, but in the end, he chose not to procrastinate. He faced this situation head on and took
what was coming his way. We’re working hard to deal with it even though seeding is ready to start on
his farm. He realizes that while getting the crop in the ground is highest priority, there is no benefit to
allowing this unpleasant situation to fall lower on the priority ranks. His approach to handling these
issues is an example for everyone.











Direct Questions

Do you give yourself permission to let unpleasant tasks slide down the priority list?

Are you aware of the potential gains missed, or losses realized, from not giving financial matters greater

Are you allowing your conflicting priorities to pull you left when you need to go right?

From the Home Quarter

I make it my business to ensure you are keeping your financial management data up to date, current,
and usable in real time. Six-month old information is not valuable when making business decisions
today. Would you write a cheque today based on your November bank statement? I help farm
businesses realize the priority that needs to be placed on financial management practices and help them
understand the financial ramifications of improved or decreased efforts in doing this critical
management function. Alan Weiss writes, “I’ve never procrastinated about eating the lobster that I
ordered. We ought to treat our priorities in life the same way, as a great meal that can spoil if you just
let it sit.” Managing your farm’s information is certainly not akin to a lobster supper, but both will spoil if
you let them sit.

Keeping your information managed and up to date is a lot less painful that what my client faced this
week. He made it a priority when he didn’t have to. What’s your priority?

If you need help in prioritizing your financial management functions, determining your
True Cost of Production, identifying opportunities to reduce operating & overhead costs, or applying
analysis to your management data, then email or call me.


Life and Business Can Sometimes Be Like Snowmobiling

I love sledding. I don’t get out nearly enough, but I can say the same about playing ball or golfing in the summer. I’m no expert at snowmobiling, but I learn something new each time I ride, and I really enjoy riding with people who, like me, are still learning how to be better.

Let’s go back to the late 90’s when I was getting more serious about sledding. I had just purchased a late model 500EFI; I was reading the magazines and watching the TV programs. One TV episode I especially took to heart and it saved my bacon that season.

The instruction in that one segment of that one TV episode was how to manage a steep hillside. Considering I’m way too much of a prairie dog to have deep desires to ride the mountains, I could have used that time to get another snack, use the washroom, change the channel, or whatever. But I paid attention.

Later that winter, I was riding with one other person in an area neither of us was familiar with. We were in the ditch of a gravel road when we came to a wide old creek bed. The bottom was probably 30-40 feet deep with a four strand barbed-wire fence running right where the base of the slope met the bottom of the ditch. Couldn’t go down, we had to ride the shoulder of the road.

I’m sure you can all picture what seemed like a 60 or 70 degree pitch with at least a 30ft drop; it was imminent doom should we lose control and start barrel rolling down that slope. But I remembered the lesson from the TV program about how to manage steep hillsides: both feet on one runner, lean hard, and stay on the throttle! About half way across I had visions of dying in the bottom of that creek as I felt my machine start to pull downward, but I hit the throttle, the machine rose back up, and I made it across.

It is human nature to pull back or slow down when we get into a trouble spot. We inherently want to be cautious when we see something that we believe to be dangerous. But is what we are seeing actually dangerous? Not always, and less so if you know what you’re doing.

Direct Questions

Is it your practice to always “pull back?” Is it your practice to always “push forward?” What’s been your level of success with either?

When you’ve committed to a decision, are you able to “stay on the throttle” through to completion, or are you inclined to pull back?

How confident are you in “assessing the danger” objectively without letting emotion impede your decision?

From the Home Quarter

No one can deny that our best decision that day on our sleds would have been to turn around. But we pushed ourselves through the fear of failure and grew our confidence by several multiples because of our success. Sometimes in business, pulling back is exactly the wrong decision. It has been said that you “cannot shrink your way to greatness.” But either way, if you don’t understand the degree of danger or trouble you’re facing, you’re likely to make the wrong decision. Staying on the throttle does not guarantee success; this is not a rule. Sometimes we need to pull back. The trick is to know when to pull back, and when to “Just Give ‘Er!”


Planning With a RESULTS Mindset

I was listening to a local radio station the other night and heard an interview with the hockey coach of
the local junior team. What caught my attention was the comment “every game matters now, every
shift matters now as we try to make our way into the playoffs.”

So did every game and every shift matter less early in the season? Why would the team accept
mediocrity at the beginning of the season only to urgently try to find excellence at the tail end in a mad
dash to make the playoffs and maintain fan support?

It sounds to me like they didn’t have a plan when they opened Game 1 of the current campaign. If their
plan at the beginning of the season was to actually make the playoffs, then every shift and every game
would have mattered all season! Granted, that would not have guaranteed entry into the post-season,
but it’s about mindset. Did they have winning as a frame of mind all season? That is what I question.
How does this apply to your business? Simple: examine honestly and critically what is your frame of
mind going into the growing season.

Believe it or not, mindset will ultimately create your results.











For example, a mindset of “don’t lose any money” will create an attitude of risk aversion, and a that would likely prevent you from forward pricing any new crop before it’s in the bin. The results would be lost pricing opportunities and likely lower profitability.

But if you are planning, I mean really putting effort into planning, the whole scheme changes.











The essence of planning puts the focus on results. If you focus on results and therefore create a “results
mindset,” your attitude and your actions will reflect as such.

I contest that if that junior hockey team began this season with a results mindset, then every game and
every shift would matter right from the beginning of training camp. They’ll have about as much success
making the playoffs with a sub-.500 record in February as your farm will have in trying to turn an
average crop into a bumper in August.

Direct Questions

You are crop planning. Hopefully you’re market planning as well. Are you “business” planning?
Are you prepared to get dirty with some ground level business planning in 2015?

From the Home Quarter

In a recent issue of the blog, you were asked to think about how you define wealth,
because it would provide clarity in how you run your business. This week, you’ve been challenged to
think about your mindset at the beginning of this crop season. Intention sets direction. Clear goals set
the roadmap. As the CEO, you are the captain of your ship. Are you using any guidance tools, still
holding on to the compass and sextant, or consulting the GPS?

Over the next few weeks of Growing Farm Profits Weekly, we’ll dig deeper, and get a little dirty
regarding business planning. It can be messy, but it’s still cleaner than trying to deal with the unforeseen
when we’re not prepared.

Think about this: every enterprise that you do business with has a business plan.

Planting the Seed

Every spring, farmers take to the fields to begin planting. With careful agronomic planning and an
immeasurable amount of faith, farmers depend on a lot of factors going their way, 3 of which are
sunshine, moisture, and the farmer’s ability to nurture the crop.


The provider of light and heat, critical to plant growth & development, inadequate amounts of either
light or heat will delay plant development. Your business is no different. Your business requires
adequate sunshine – what provides the sunshine to your business? It’s you. As the owner, president, or
CEO, you are the source of light and heat in your business, and the light and heat you need to provide is
strategic leadership and management process. It is your vision, your ability to enact on that vision, and
the manner in which you lead that will have the greatest effect, positive or negative, on your business.


Plant’s roots are trying to find it. Nutrients aren’t absorbed by the plant without it. All things being
equal, by and large throughout documented agricultural history (recent seasons of excess moisture
being the exception,) moisture has been the most limiting factor in crop production. The moisture in
your business is working capital. Working capital is often the most limiting factor in a farm business, and
access to adequate working capital will become a serious challenge in the future. Your business cannot
function without working capital, like your plants cannot function without moisture. Drop dead
minimum working capital needs to be 50% of your annual expenses, with the target being minimum


You nurture your crop the best way you can. You fertilize using the 4 R’s (right source, right place, right
rate, right time), you apply herbicide and fungicide at precisely the right time, and you scout for disease,
bugs, weeds, etc. all growing season. You do all of this because you know that your efforts will grow a
better crop. And while you nurture your crop, don’t forget to nurture the rest of your business. Your
people, be they your staff, your family, and yes even you, need to be looked after as well as you look
after your crop.

Direct Questions

Are you, as the owner, president, or CEO, generating enough sunshine (strategic leadership &
management process) for your business? How are you determining if your sunshine is providing positive
results? If you’re not talking about this with your people and your advisors, start now; you can’t
diagnose yourself.

Are your moisture levels (working capital) adequate to carry your business through the year? Can you
get through unforeseen and unplanned draws on your working capital? If you have inadequate working
capital, what are you doing about it? Don’t wait until spring, take care of it now!

Are you nurturing your business, your people, and yourself, as well as you nurture your crop? The “offseason” is a great time to show appreciation to your staff, family, and yourself.

From the Home Quarter

Your business is like your crop. It requires constant attention. It requires quick action when situations
arise. And it is far easier to act fast if you’ve put the time into preparing contingencies. Your business
needs to be nimble and act fast when appropriate. Information is coming at us faster than ever, and in
greater volumes. Business happens at the speed of the internet, and knee-jerk reactions are rarely the
best business decisions you can make. Every year you put together a full crop plan; do you do the same
for your business?