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01/13/2022

No, this is not a blog about Agricultural Irrigation . . . 

If one peruses business articles, the topic of “Pivoting your Business” can be found with some frequency – especially within the pandemic years.  I have read at least a couple of agricultural/farm business-oriented articles on this topic as well.  Thinking objectively and independently, I find these articles tend to be incomplete in their analysis of the concept of “Pivoting”.  Typically, authors approach the concept of pivoting with the perspective of a firm making (or needing to make) significant changes in their business model, marketing, management, or the like.  I submit this concept of pivoting fails to capture all the nuances of “Pause, Ponder and Pivot”
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09/09/2021

Is now the time to expand your tech expertise?
Following is a blog that was recently posted on The Daily Scoop website (www.thedailyscoop.com)
It describes the possibility that some agricultural producers might want to consider hiring their own Chief Technology Officer (CTO). 
The text of the blog is posted here, and an interesting survey of producer's thoughts about their use of technology and their need for a CTO is included in the full blog found at:
https://www.thedailyscoop.com/news/retail-industry/technology-considering-cto

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As you look at your farm’s capital expenditures, how many are related to technology? Think broadly. The numbers probably climb pretty fast. 

“An important part of our business is to try new things,” says Brian Watkins, Ohio farmer and CEO of CropZilla, a farm software provider. “Even if you’re not an early adopter, you still have to have an intentional innovation strategy.”

Your farm’s strategy should span management information, agronomic technology and equipment technology, Watkins says. To make sure your farm is ahead of the pack (or at least in the race) you need someone to own this part of the business. 
09/03/2021

As consultants we have probably all heard the request from a client that goes something like, “Please give me your honest feedback, even if it hurts… I can take it…”

While we appreciate their desire for frankness, there are some areas that can be deeply personal and hard to share. It’s easy to show them a set of financial numbers, field reports, historical data and other objective information. But when we have to talk to them about difficulties in their own behaviors, attitude, management and leadership styles, we know we have to approach them with tactfulness.
08/20/2021

As consultant's we've probably all encountered situations where a client is in a difficult situation, some of which is beyond their control.
In an blog on Successful Farming's website, Myron Friesen responds to a question from a reader who feels his situation is due to other's lack of making decisions and their poor choices, which gives him the sense that his hands are tied and can't move forward with his own plans.
In a kind and tactful manner, Myron provides some tough love to this reader to get him back on track.

The blog is here: Farmer Wonders How He Can Keep Paying For Others' Mistakes

It's good advice, not only for the information he shared with him, but the manner in which he shared it.
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Posted by Don Tyler

(Hat tip to Pete Weisenberger)
 
08/13/2021

"Labor and machinery variances are just awesome," according to the latest corn and soybean cost of production benchmarks presented by John McNutt, LATTAHARRIS and Moe Russell, RUSSELL CONSULTING GROUP. 

Well, "awesome" may not be the term producers would commonly use to describe variances in production costs. In this 2019 presentation, Moe Russell (long-term ASAC Member) and John McNutt provide an insightful review of changes in production costs in the 10 years previous.

Here are some of the key findings:



 
08/05/2021

The Third Generation Rule is the commonly cited notion that suggests most family businesses don’t survive through the 3rd generation. Josh Baron and Rob Lachenauer, writing for Harvard Business Review in an article posted July 19, 2021, did some research and provided convincing arguments that this “rule” is a myth that has been referenced without statistical or historical proof.
07/29/2021

How I Started Doing International Consulting:
When I finished my PhD in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in 1968, I had a choice of going to work for USDA, a University Agricultural Economics Department or for a private sector firm. I chose to go to work for a private sector firm by the name of Arthur D. Little, Inc. based in Cambridge, MA. By taking this position I found myself working for a firm that carried out consulting assignments internationally. And I found that the agricultural/agribusiness group which I was a part of within the firm was doing several projects internationally. Consequently, I became involved in some of this project work and the rest is history, I developed a career in international agriculture and agribusiness consulting because I found it to be rewarding working with agricultural and agribusiness professionals from all over the world. During my career I have worked in 79 different countries and worked on many agricultural/agribusiness projects that involved a wide range of temperate and tropical crops, and all types of poultry and livestock.
 
 
07/22/2021

Agricultural producers often use some of their summer office time to review current practices, evaluate systems and equipment, and plan for harvest.
In a recent blog post by Red Wing Software, they provide an overview of items to consider when evaluating your current bookkeeping systems.

Here is the link to this informative blog post:
Six Steps to Better Farm Bookkeeping
07/15/2021

As consultants we are often asked by clients how they can improve their operation. In other situations, we see behaviors and philosophies they need to modify if they are going to reach their full potential, or even to survive the next downturn in the markets.
In this blog post by Norm Brown, he captures some of the key thoughts that Dick Wittman shared in an interview two years ago that are just as applicable today as the day the interview was given.
Here's the link to Norm's Blog:
Becoming a Farm CEO--An Interview with Dick Wittman

Norm and Dick are both members of ASAC and have a wealth of knowledge to share with long-term consultants, new consultants, and any farm business owner and manager.

Posted by:
Don Tyler | Tyler & Associates
06/24/2021

As consultants, we are often asked for advice about different types of business software. In addition to the particular brand of software to use, another key consideration when making a change is when and how to make the transition to the new platform and service. Red Wing Software provides great advice for each area that must be considered in this situation, and is appropriate whether you are making the change at the end of a business year, or you are in the process of considering making a change sometime in the future.

Follow the link here:
Overcoming the Inertia of Switching Software

(Posted by Don Tyler)


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Red Wing Software, Inc.
491 Highway 19 Blvd  
Red Wing, MN 55066-1119
800-732-9464
www.redwingsoftware.com
06/16/2021

 A 2017 K•COE ISOM study showed people who spend time collecting and interpreting financial and operational information will average higher profits and better solvency than their peers. The research also found “power users” of information had greater labor efficiency, generating more revenue with the same number of employees.  Finance and growth consultant Peter Martin defines best practices that pay in the FEBRUARY 2021 FARM JOURNAL.
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This is the opening of Norm Brown's blog found at the link below. He shares the results of a K-COE ISOM study on the value of time spent collecting and interpreting financial and operational information.
Norm provides a summary as well as the related links.

Here's the link to Norm's blog:
https://www.fbssystems.com/farm-management-software-blog/take-time-to-improve-your-back-office

Thanks, Norm!
Norm Brown
FBS Systems
Aledo, IL
06/09/2021

In this blog post by Steve Kluemper, AgriStrategies, LLC, he provides a detailed list of the questions that any business should be asking itself. This list is valuable to share with our clients and for us to consider for the health and success of our own businesses.

Here's the link:
https://agristrategiesllc.com/25-questions-for-your-business-by-steve-kluemper/

Posted by Don Tyler, ASAC Member
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For more information contact:
Steve Kluemper
AgriStrategies LLC
517-580-9070
Steve.Kluemper@AgriStrategiesLLC.com
www.AgriStrategiesLLC.com
06/03/2021

As consultants, we’ve probably all experienced the client that believes budgeting is a waste of time because there are too many factors outside their control that affect their income and expenses. In her blog linked below, Joanna Lidback provides a valuable list of the many benefits of budgeting that help clients manage their business more effectively throughout the year.
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Link:
Budgeting: Tools for Bettering Your Business

Joanna S. Lidback, MBA, CAC
Dairy Farmer, Business Consultant, CFO at Adirondack Farms LLC
05/20/2021

Steve Kluemper, AgriStrategies, LLC, provides great advice on measuring a company's financial health in this blog post. He provides clear definitions of key ratios that must be monitored and analyzed.

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Analyzing the many factors contributing to a business’ financial health is much like analyzing the many factors contributing to a person’s overall health.

A doctor may look at a patient’s temperature, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, blood tests, genetics, history, lifestyle, etc. to determine the individual’s overall health condition and the likelihood they may or may not have health issues in the future. Using just one of these items may be an indicator, but it won’t paint the whole picture.

Analyzing the “health” and future prognosis of a business is done much the same way. While some individual factors, like cash flow, may bear more immediate impact, to fully understand the financial health of the business, we need to look at many different factors. This is why we encourage managers to use historical and projected ratios to better assess their historical trends, current financial health and long-term outlook for their business. Understanding the trajectory of a particular ratio and the rate of change is important in determining the impact.

For the complete blog, follow this link:
https://agristrategiesllc.com/measuring-financial-health-by-steve-kluemper/


 
05/13/2021

“Sacred Cows” is a term that gets used to describe a variety of items.  It might describe the original use of the phrase, where animals in some parts of the world are deemed sacred, worth more than anything else, and are allowed to roam free.  Anyone that harms them is punished.  The term sacred cow is actually an idiom of American origin dating back to the mid 1800’s to describe these animals.

The phrase is now commonly used to refer to a person, organization, institution, program, etc. considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning.  Sacred cows can be found anywhere.
04/29/2021

Begin with the end in mind.  Develop your vision and mission to be independent, to be able to do the right things in the right way with your own resources, without mandate or coercion.

Independence…..What does it mean?  What did it once mean?  What will it mean to you in the future?

Throughout my life and business career, I’ve read a lot of articles and books and listened to a lot of speakers provide insights and suggestions on ways and means to manage and grow our businesses.  A lot of what I’ve experienced works for our personal lives as well as for our business.  

In my last post, I posted my thoughts on some steps to take to build the foundation for a successful business and a successful life.  Disclaimer:  I oftentimes need to practice what I preach.  Nothing’s easy and Murphy’s Law has not been repealed.  
04/14/2021

In nearly every conversation I have had with clients for the last several years, the topic of finding enough labor has arisen. For many producers and growers, it isn’t about finding the best employees, it’s about finding any employees that will work in their operation. Even if your services don’t include developing strategies and solutions for HR issues, you might be able to help them develop a strategy for the future of their business in this crucial area.
04/01/2021

In Joanna's LinkedIn article "Budgeting Tools for Bettering Your Business" she provides very practical insights on how we can help our clients see the value in budgeting. Here's the introduction to the article with the link to the full article below:
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At Adirondack Management Services, we are big believers in budgeting. Yet, we’ve heard the pushback: “What use is a budget? I have no control over the markets or what’s going to blow up today let along six months from now.”

Maybe you’re putting too much stock in the budget. A budget is not a crystal ball. It does not predict the future, nor does restrict what you can do in response to whatever is coming your way (see also: 2020). Quite the contrary, it can help identify alternatives for a path forward if necessary.

A budget is a tool that can help guide your business – whether it’s in the planning or controlling mode of management. Sure, your banker or financial backers may like to see one, but wouldn’t it be great if it also went to work for you?
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Link to full article here

Joanna Lidback on LinkedIn

 
03/18/2021

Sometimes a client needs a bit of a wake-up call to remind them that their past history of success is no guarantee of future prosperity. They can develop a sense of being invincible simply because they have survived a few tough years and the future looks bright. In these situations, I refer them to a book named How the Mighty Fall that Jim Collins wrote a few years after writing Good to Great.
03/11/2021

As consultants we want to be certain to help the next generation of our clients develop into great owners and managers. A part of that process is helping them manage through disruptions and setbacks that are common in an agricultural business. Here are some areas where we might provide unique insights during our interactions with them, ensuring that our relationship with them lasts into the next generation.
02/25/2021

As we work with the owners, family members and employees of our small business clients, we often find patterns of behaviors and attitudes that are consistent with the ones who are the most successful.
Though there are many traits that could be listed in a “Top Ten List,” the following (in no particular order of importance) tend to be the ones that myself and other consultants and coaches find most often.
01/28/2021

I recently wrote about the potential CEO’s in a family business—the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Emotional Officer. There are also two potential COO’s in the family business that we may encounter as consultants to their business.
 
The traditional Chief Operations Officer (COO) is the person in the company who ensures that daily operations and activities are performed as expected and production meets agreed targets.

These COO’s analyze production data, manage the labor force and keep costs within budget.  COO’s coordinate field operations and address production issues immediately when they arise.  From fire prevention to employee satisfaction, COO’s have a lot on their plate.

There is an additional type of COO—the “Child of Owner”—and within this job title are two different varieties.
01/21/2021


In every business there are official titles as well as unofficial ones.  Common official titles include CFO’s, CEO’s, Presidents, VP’s, Managers, Supervisors and a host of others.  In fact some companies are getting very creative with the titles to different positions.  There are now “Directors of Engagement,” “Culture Wizards,” “Head Cat Herders” and “Employee Support and Service Directors.”

The traditional Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is ultimately in charge of the entire business.  They lead the other leaders and managers in the company, create and implement the vision, mission and strategic plan, ensure profitability and hold their key people accountable to do their jobs.

The people in the company look up to the CEO and expect them to be logical and thoughtful decision makers, to lead their people with humility, use discernment and grace, and have high levels of emotional maturity in every interaction.  They earned their position through consistent performance, proven leadership, and the confidence of their peers.
01/14/2021

The family business is a unique client with great benefits—and interesting challenges. We enjoy their loyalty to our business, passion to maintain their lifestyle from generation to generation and the devotion to their legacy. They may also have a dynamic decision-making style, inconsistent organizational structure, and limited accountability.

They have unique needs. The staff in many family businesses have inconsistent roles and responsibilities that change from day to day and person to person. For some, their organizational structure is best described as an “everybody does everything” approach to getting the job done. Multiple generations are a part of their workforce. When there are members of these different generations that have a role in regular duties and responsibilities, our professional relationship can be difficult to navigate.
01/07/2021

Several years ago, Jim Collins wrote Good to Great which detailed the process by which “Good” companies become “Great” ones.  Though it was originally published in 2001 it is still the go-to book for many business leaders.
Early last year I was asked by a consulting group to provide a presentation at a conference for large ag operations on how the “Great” grain and livestock producers seem to always have production that is 20 to 50% higher than national averages.
In developing my presentation, I gleaned input from my clients as well as other producers who are at those levels.  The results were clear.  They don’t have any proprietary knowledge, technology or systems.  They simply think differently than everyone else in their industry—i.e. a different mindset.
12/16/2020

Are your customers and clients delighted with your services, or just satisfied? Let’s consider the differences.

There is an HVAC provider in central Texas who services many of the big-box stores in that hot, steamy climate. In their area, if the AC goes out in one of their client’s stores, people won’t stay long or will simply go to a competitor’s store.

When this service provider was reviewing their vision statement a couple years ago, they wanted to emphasize to their clients how important it was to solve their problem quickly so they would not have any interruption in business or discomfort for customers.
12/10/2020

Along with all the tax planning that is essential at the end of a business year, we should also be encouraging our clients to review key documents and consider creating strategies and documentation that ought to exist in a professionally run business. I say “ought” because the statistics reveal few growers and producers actually make the investment in these important areas of business.
11/11/2020

As consultants, one of our initial challenges is reading people accurately to glean an understanding of their motives, communication style, values, priorities and overall approach to business. The personality of individuals is complex, but we learn ways to interpret and categorize certain tendencies.

Generational differences can be quite prevalent in family businesses and are often a key driver of the decision-making process. In the last 25 years of studying and training hundreds of groups on generational differences, and having seen two new generations (Millennials and Gen Z) appear during that time, it is clear that generational differences are being over-emphasized. 



 
10/28/2020

Though strategies for creating, communicating and executing a company vision might have changed over the years, the objectives remain the same. Crafting a written vision statement provides non-specific directional guidance of your business for employees, customers, vendors, leadership and the community, which are stated in general, philosophical terms.  It includes your values, priorities, core competencies and other important aspects of what defines you and your overarching purpose.

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American Society of Agricultural Consultants (ASAC)

Traci Schermerhorn, EVP
PO Box 785
Ankeny, IA  50021
(515) 633-7993

evp@agconsultants.org