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Agricultural consultants can get involved in a variety of production systems and crops. We may be accustomed to the crops that are traditionally grown in our area of the country, but we cannot overlook those crops that are just as valuable in other regions.

Every agricultural consultant has the objective of being one of their client’s trusted advisors. Until that status is reached with the client, the consultant is just another vendor working from one need to the next, one communication at a time, without being able to develop a relationship that allows them to have all the information they need to provide excellent advice.

Preface: The setting for this story predates virtual meetings, digital whiteboards, and other cloud collaborations; however, its moral remains relevant.

There was an American businessman, headquartered in New York city fervently negotiating with an Indian businessman, headquartered in New Delhi, India.  Given there was only so much to be accomplished via phone calls and mail was far too slow, the American agreed to travel to New Delhi for completion of the negotiations.

He traveled to New Delhi; they conducted long days of intense discussions. After the 3rd day, both men were weary and mutually agreed they needed a respite. The Indian suggested a morning of golf at nearby Delhi Golf Club – a prominent parkland-type course.  The American thought it to be a capital idea – a placid respite from their recent stressful haggling.  The bucolic scenery and fresh air would help clear their minds and perspectives.

As consultants in agriculture, we often get asked questions a little outside of our main topics of advice. One of the questions that often comes up in family operations, due to the fact that there are usually more than one cultural generation working together, is the issue of work-life balance.

During the earliest years of the 21st century, Generation X, the newest generation to enter the workforce at that time, began using the term “work-life balance” as a key trait of their preferred workplace. It sounds like a desirable attribute, one that nearly any employee would embrace if given the opportunity. In reality, it is difficult for agricultural companies to deliver on this because there are too many factors affecting the business that are beyond the control of ownership and management.

Producers are enjoying marketing cattle this year at prices they’ve not seen in many a blue moon, if ever. Even the strong pricing opportunities experienced ten years or so ago are not in the league with this present market. Here in northeast Texas, we’re seeing four- and five-weight front-end steers and heifers in the upper $200/cwt range and the two- and three- weights topping well over $300/cwt. Even as buyers are starting to grade their purchases harder, the front-end quality calves are holding their own. Though falling back a couple of dollars per cwt, the plainer calves are still moving at good prices.

The New Year is a good time to review our goals from the previous year and set goals for the new one. As we consider the different areas of our life and business that need attention, security should be a regular item on this list.

In a recent online article for Farm Progress, Betty Haynes provided a review of security issues provided by Nick Sosnowski, chief financial officer at IAA Credit Union.

Working hard is the hallmark of any industrious and ambitious person, no matter the industry in which they toil. Without ambition and a determined attitude to prevail against all odds (and not excluding a copious amount of sweat and tears, and, yes, likely some blood), no amount of business acumen will make up for sloth.

Many things beyond these statements contribute to the success or failure of any enterprise. Not to diminish or overstate any attribute or factor affecting an enterprise’s capabilities to prosper, it is of paramount importance to start with the basics of building a business.

I attribute this quote to Warren Buffett.  It’s where I first read it, or at least that’s where it first registered on me.  I’m sure he picked it up from another earlier source.  Nonetheless, no matter who first coined the phrase, it has rung true since time began, and I submit, it always will.
It’s part of economics and finance in the elementary sense.

There are many uses of the word “sprint” throughout our language, and each has its own meaning and purpose. Certainly, there are sprints in track and field events, and there are also sprints in other activities where we want to be very focused on a particular issue for a short period of time to get maximum results.

One of the more frustrating conversations that I have with agricultural operators as well as many entrepreneurs is the discussion about whether or not they need to create a monthly budget for their enterprise. The most common excuses I hear for not bothering to develop a budget include:
“I tried it once and by March it was so far off I threw it away.”
“How can I make a budget when I have no idea what my main input and market prices will be?”
“That’s a lot of work for something that isn’t going to be very accurate.”
“Agriculture is so unpredictable there’s no way to create a budget that is accurate enough to use.”

In a recent posting on Farm Journal’s AgWeb site, Jenna Hoffman reviewed information from a Purdue University study that provided key insights into the traits of a good farm manager. The demands on farm managers continue to grow, and working with family makes the responsibilities even more complex.

Purdue identified three areas that producers need to focus on when selecting a farm manager or assessing their own farm management skills. The skills include knowledge, experience and collaboration.

In the May 9, 2023 Indiana Prairie Farmer online article on the Farm Progress site, Tom Bechman posted a short summary of Greg Kneubuhler’s comments on the best investments to make in farming. Here is the text of Bechman’s article:

The road goes on forever... And the party never ends...

With all deference and acknowledgement to Robert Earl Keen’s signature contribution to the music world, his lyrics aptly recognize the workings of the American government bureaucracy and its ever-present quest to manage, manipulate and otherwise control the economy. In doing so, society and our standard of living, our culture, our ability to function as a free-market economy and to control our destinies are being slowly degraded.

In the midst of Financial Pressures and Weighty Economic Circumstances, the ability to focus clearly on business (and general life) solutions is oftentimes clouded (the fog can be as thick as pea soup).  The major decision-making issue may not be one’s management ability, but the fact that the emotional tether is too short.  One is simply too close to – and completely surrounded by - the circumstances.

In such times, the value of Objective Counsel can be immeasurable – perhaps to the level of business lifesaving.  A rational, non-conflict-of-interest, no-agenda sounding board can assist in cutting through and peeling back the emotional, irrational cloud to examine the issue more analytically.


In our role as advisors, we are often asked about additional business ventures and opportunities that our clients are considering. A recent article on The Diff website, Byrne Hobart provided a “100-Question Diligence Checklist” to help investors do their due diligence in reviewing the viability of potential investments.

In a recent blog post by Norm Brown, FBS Systems, he shared valuable insights about the fact that information for farms has different levels. This article highlights External Knowledge and Internal Knowledge.

Norm states, “Are you preparing to make critical management decisions based on intuition, past experiences, or what your neighbors are doing rather than relying on objective data? You’re not alone. In fact, for centuries farms were run on those very methods of planning.  However, a majority of producers begin with erroneous assumptions, then bolster their "confirmation bias" with DIY analysis. What if, instead, you harnessed the available data to improve your farm management?”

In a recent posting on Farm Journal’s Ag Web site, Sara Shafer wrote concerning the status of technology in agriculture. She compared the technological meltdown that Southwest Airlines experienced earlier this year due to their legacy software systems, to the systems that most farms rely on today. Could the same debacle happen to many farmers? Southwest had a “technology debt” which is defined as a gap between what the technology needs to be and what it is today.

In a recent blog post by Norman Brown, FBS Systems, he provides a concise and informative review of several aspects of the need for farm operations to use financial guidelines. The story summarizes key elements of the Farm Financial Standards Council, what it is, why it is important to farm operations and its impact on those operations.

During the American Farm Bureau’s 104th Convention they adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2023. With the current Congress drafting the next Farm Bill, it is essential that the AFBF work to ensure farmers and ranchers can continue to meet the growing needs of families in America and around the world.

A recent phone conversation with a colleague prompted my recollection of a story that is perhaps relevant as a year has closed and a new one is opening.  The story was voiced to me several year ago.  I cannot accurately recollect the meeting/conference nor the specific speaker; however, I recall the story vividly and found it useful in my consulting work.  It goes something like this:
Some time ago a US businessman traveled to India to attend to a business venture there.  After several long days of work, he and his on-site Indian colleague decided to take a day’s respite and play a round of golf.

One area in farm business management that needs to be an intense focus is income tax planning and management.  Far too many people, farming or otherwise, personal or business, regard payment of income taxes the ultimate bogeyman.  No one likes to pay taxes.  However, short of full repeal, they are here to stay.  We must learn to manage our tax liabilities, by managing our profitability over business cycles and over the long term.  Simply tallying up this calendar year’s revenues and expenses and trying to minimize or eliminate a tax liability based on each individual year’s results, in the long haul, will likely come back to haunt you one day.  Nowhere is this practiced more fully with a notion to avoid paying tax in a given year than with depreciation.  Accelerated depreciation and Section 179 are often misused to the long-term detriment of the farm business.  Spending ten dollars to save a dollar typically doesn’t work out.

In this LinkedIn post by David Dam, he shares the results of his research that reveals correlations between sales success and whether or not the salesperson needs to be liked. Nearly all salespeople say that their strategy is focused on developing relationships, but if that is the case, why do some of their customers challenge them on price and face delays in getting orders?

Warren Buffett is arguably the greatest investor in the history of American business, at least of the past seventy years or so.  He’s known as the “Oracle of Omaha” and has amassed a fortune well over $100 billion.  Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company controlled by him and his friend, business partner and confidante, Charlie Munger, has created and accumulated hundreds of billions of dollars of company and shareholder value in the decades since assuming control of the company.  He’s followed with a fervor bordering on religious zealotry and is quoted ad infinitum by pundits, politicians and ordinary stock pickers.

In a recent article posted by the accounting firm of Harper, Rains, Knight & Company (HRKC), they shared some best practices for managing your business in an economic downturn. Though this article focuses mostly on retail businesses, their focus on managing cash flow is certainly a key management principle for any business to investigate, monitor and enhance their management.

In a recent online article for Tyne Morgan summarizes how some of the warning signs of recession are heating up. She cites gas and diesel prices (up 51%), grocery prices (up 10.8%), meat/poultry/fish (up 14.3%) and the overall Consumer Price Index is up 8.3% over last year.

Regardless of a person’s opinions on global climate change, the extent of its impact and whether or not it is caused by human activity, we can all agree that anything we can do to improve the quality of life for people around the world is a worthwhile endeavor. There are certainly different strategies available and each of us can analyze the best use of our talents and resources to have a positive effect on human wellbeing.

I’ve visited over 600 different family business offices in the last several years, and it is interesting to see the differences in the size and design of each. Some are little more than a closet in a corner of their house, some are a separate area of the farm shop, while others are elaborate and as professional as that of a Fortune 500 Company. The largest one that any of my farm clients has is 3 stories tall with it’s own cafeteria for up to 100 employees and visitors, and a greenhouse that supplies year-round vegetables for the cafeteria.

Aissa Good, Managing Director for Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business recently shared the release of their annual survey of large commercial producers. This report is beneficial as it details key insights from their research and sheds light on the agricultural supply chain to aid agribusinesses in better serving their customers.

In a recent article on Farm Journal’s AGWEB website, author Shay Foulk provides his perspectives on risk management for agricultural producers. He defines risk and what risk management entails, as well as the flaws and principles of many risk management strategies. He provides M.E.A.T. as an acronym for managing risk that was created by Chris Davenport, world renowned extreme skier and mountain climber.

Know Before You Grow
In a recent newsletter from FBS, Norm Brown, President FBS Systems, Inc., ASAC Member and CAC, provides great insights on External vs. Internal Knowledge. He challenged his readers to consider the assumptions we make about where we get our information, and the affect our assumptions can have on our ability to make sound business decisions.

Here are Norm’s thoughts:

"It's not what people don't know that hurts them. It's what they do know that just ain't so."  -Will Rogers

At least that’s what some people believe.   Others are just as sure this quote came from Mark Twain. (Unintentionally, their collective wisdom is validated.)


WASHINGTON — As discussions for writing the 2023 Farm Bill begin, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture will direct its policy advocacy efforts regarding the bill towards 10 specific policy areas

 At the hybrid 2022 NASDA Winter Policy Conference today, members charged the organization to participate in Farm Bill conversations involving the following:

Trying to stay abreast of technology can be a daunting challenge for those of us who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, when computers and cell phones were just beginning to come onto the market. Those early models were cumbersome, took up a lot of space and, to those of us who weren’t (and still aren’t) tech-savvy, were downright frightening. 
Obviously, many sectors of society and the economy did just fine with good old paper and a No. 2 pencil, starting centuries ago. A slide rule and giant chalkboards helped put man on the moon and advanced many other technological marvels. Of course, these days we have laptops, tablets, smart phones, fitness monitors and several gizmos that are light years from just forty years ago. (I still can’t comprehend that 1980 was forty-two years ago...the last of my college days. I must have been having fun....Time flies, they say.)

In the recent newsletter from FBS, Norm Brown, President FBS Systems, Inc., ASAC Member and CAC, provides this update on Farm Financial Guidelines for Agriculture.

The Financial Guidelines for Agriculture, a reference document for those working with agricultural financial reports and records, has received an update to sections within the publication according to members of the Technical Committee of the Farm Financial Standards Council.

There are four major sections that have undergone review and revisions:

Final Deadline Fast Approaching for PPP Loan Forgiveness Application!

PPP borrowers have an important deadline to meet if they haven’t met it already. A little refresher on the guidelines. If a PPP borrower in 2021 did not apply for forgiveness within 10 months after the last day of the “covered period” (8 to 24 weeks following disbursement), PPP loan payments will no longer be deferred, and the business must begin making payments to its lender. The “last 10-month period” is coming to an end on March,15 2022 for borrowers.


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”

Is now the time to expand your tech expertise?
Following is a blog that was recently posted on The Daily Scoop website (
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:

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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. 

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.

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)

"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:


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.

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.

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

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

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

 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:

Thanks, Norm!
Norm Brown
FBS Systems
Aledo, IL

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:

Posted by Don Tyler, ASAC Member
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For more information contact:
Steve Kluemper
AgriStrategies LLC

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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Budgeting: Tools for Bettering Your Business

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

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:


“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.

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.  

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 


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)

Jean Merry, Executive Director
N78W14573 Appleton Ave #287
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
(262) 502-9034