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Creating a Farm Plan to Identify Goals and Prioritize Change

Cassie Monger
Educational Opportunities: 
Grain, Dairy, Swine, Beef, Young, Beginning Farmers
Home > Education & Events > June 2019 > Creating a Farm Plan to Identify Goals and Prioritize Change

In today’s environment, it’s important that Ag producers continually challenge themselves and evaluate their business processes; not only to ensure the operation is growing, but that it’s also adapting to changes within the industry and marketplace. It’s easy to underestimate the power of trusted partnerships and having a farm plan to measuring the operation’s success, both during the beginning stages of a new farm operation and regularly throughout the operation’s lifetime.

Regularly evaluating what’s working well and what isn’t, will help ensure that the right practices are in place and the best people are on the team to achieve the business goals.  As an operation grows and the Ag industry evolves, it’s critical for individuals on the team to have the right expertise and skillset to adapt to the growth and continue driving the business forward.

Prioritizing your goals and understanding how to build your team affects not only the success of your business, but also influences your team engagement and your role as a leader.  If you want to remain successful in this industry well into the future, it’s paramount to embrace change initiatives and recognize that it doesn’t have to be done alone. 

Building Your Team
When you start building your team, consider people who can hold you accountable for achieving your goals.  Think beyond just your immediate team of employees and make sure you have connections to industry advisors and experts who can guide you in decision making by providing input. This core group of people will also be instrumental in following up with you on the success of your initiatives. It may involve stepping out of your comfort zone and involving individuals who are not currently in your circle of peers.   

Most businesses require a strong relationship with their advisors to be successful.  Depending on the type of operation, your circle of influencers might include an accountant, financial advisors and lenders, nutritionists, agronomists and your veterinarian.  Some of the greatest team members are those who are just there to listen and truly understand the goals and needs of your business. Look for team members who will be objective with an unbiased point of view and are able to point out bottlenecks and highlight overlooked opportunities. 

It’s natural to assume family and friends should be a part of your advisory team; however, it’s not always appropriate for them to play this role. Emotions can run high and take precedence over fact-based decisions.  It’s key to hold good working relationships – whoever you chose, you need to trust them.  Make sure their strengths fill gaps in your skillset and that they can challenge you to ensure the needs of the business are being met in accordance with your values.  Behind every successful Ag producer, there is a team of trusted supporters who cheer them on and help maintain focus.  

Identifying Goals
Now that you have a strong team in place, utilize them to identify which areas of the business are most critical and begin to evaluate.  Pinpoint where the organization has opportunities to improve and where it’s already performing well.  Conducting this analysis first will help you determine what opportunities are available. 
Next, do a market analysis.  Where is the industry headed?  Utilize the expertise of your advisory team and invite them to actively participate in the discussion as it pertains to your business. It will be useful in determining where your focus should be. It’s key to keep your past performance in mind.  Know where you’ve come from, to dictate where you are going.

This step of the process can be challenging, but keep an open mind.  Recognize that it’s not easy to allow others to share their perspective or express their constructive feedback on something you are passionate about.  It may feel they are being too critical at times, but as long as they truly understand the business and know your goals, trust that they have your best interest in mind. 

Most importantly, be sure your team is setting achievable goals.  It’s okay to challenge yourself with a few stretch goals, but setting objectives that are unobtainable will limit your progress and can leave you feeling defeated.   

Prioritizing Change & Creating an Action Plan
Once you have established your goals it’s time to bring them to life. Don’t let the list overwhelm you. A great place to start is by prioritizing which items are time sensitive, which make the most sense and which are the most valuable for your business.   

Break it down. Figuring out how to execute on your list of goals might be overwhelming. To drive momentum, create an action plan for each goal by breaking down the objective into smaller, more manageable and measurable tasks. This will help in providing a sense of accomplishment; as each task gets checked off the list, it will feel like progress is happening more quickly.

Write everything down.  Define why changes are being made and be clear on what the team should accomplish.  Meet regularly to monitor progress and be diligent in following up. 

Be flexible and adapt.  Things will change and over the course of time your priorities may need to shift. Its key is to remain focused on your desired outcomes, seek guidance from your team and adjust your goals as needed. Be sure to recognize and celebrate successes along the way.  Finally, encourage the team to adjust their mindset and shift their attitude toward optimal results.  Doing this sets the wheels in motion for successfully executing new strategies now and in the future.

Accomplishing all of this isn’t simple.  However, following a process and utilizing your team of trusted advisors can have a huge impact on how well the business does at prioritizing and executing goals.  What got us here, will not get us there; a collaborative approach and willingness to embrace change will get us to where we need to be.
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