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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Feb 22, 2018

Any seasonal business has to deal with the fact that before the season starts, they need to get the team ready. Today we’re going to talk about what happens when we don’t get the team ready, the importance of setting expectations at the beginning of the season, and some tools for helping prepare your team to bring their best.

What happens when everyone isn’t on the same page as the season begins?

  • Leaders feel like they have to have the same conversation 10 times. Frustrating and inefficient.
  • People do not live up to the leader’s expectations when the season hits. Creates bitterness and hurts communication.
  • Stress for the employee who is caught between expectations from home and work. Distraction—you don’t get their best.
  • Accidents and breakdowns. People aren’t trained or they’ve forgotten. Could lead to injury—nothing gets done when someone gets hurt or there’s a breakdown...not to mention the higher insurance deductibles.

But what about when we are prepared? You don’t feel frantic at the last minute, you’ve worked out the plan and have a back-up plan too.

  • People are in better moods and make fewer mistakes.
  • Repairs and accidents are rare.
  • The team is creative and out of distress.
  • You need less equipment because everything is working at peak efficiency.
  • Those are the fun years!

AREAS TO FOCUS OUR ENERGY DURING CROP YEAR PREPARATION:

People

  • Employees: Get them together as a team and have a session before things get busy. The discussion isn’t around the to-do list on the wall, but rather about the season that’s coming up, with the objective of shared understanding and shared expectations. Maybe a round table discussion—changes for the year, basic expectations, safety procedure review, get questions or input from the team. It’s a good way to hit the reset button. Remind the team that when it’s go time, it’s go time—get your dentist appointments in before spring hits, take the family on a weekend trip before you get too busy, etc..
  • Family: It’s easy for us as farm leaders to focus hard on getting the job done but forget that many people don’t have the same understanding of the farm as we have. During the long, demanding hours of the season, your employees have to balance being a great employee with the demands of being a spouse and a parent too. If you can get their support system on board, you’ll have a much more effective employee. Get creative and be sincere.
  • Suppliers: This one can also be easily be overlooked. You might think that because you’re paying your suppliers, there isn’t much you need to do. However, I would encourage you to first get on the same page as to expectations and understanding; lay out your needs and negotiate expectations before the season hits. Secondly, do not forget the people responsible for delivery. A lot of farmers might think people will jump higher if you make more noise, but in my experience people will do just enough to make others stop fussing, while they’ll go the extra mile for leaders who respect and appreciate them.

Equipment

  • Service: Ensure performance is going to be there when the season hits by making sure the welds are checked, bearings replaced, wires inspected and so on—those things that are likely to trip you up when you roll. The other component of service is safety—make sure the brakes are in good order and the lights work. Make sure the windows are clean and there are fire extinguishers and first aid kits around. Train the team on what’s expected for regular service, the process for when breakdowns occur, and what is expected on the farm for safety.
  • Contingency planning: Have a plan B in place. What are our choices if we need a different planting tractor? What if we get delayed because of weather? Do we have options if we can’t do all the side-dressing?

Actions

  • Clear plans for the tasks ahead: Plan out the activities happening to each field—tillage, spray, seed placement and speed, etc..
  • Eisenhower: “Plans are useless but planning is essential.” Plan early before all the variables are in, and you will be mentally ready to face many hurdles before they arrive. Occasional changes will need to be made along the way, but it’s easier to course-correct in the middle of an established plan than having to start from scratch in the middle of a battle.

SUMMARY
Being intentional as a leader helps the team to get in front of what we know is inevitable. Consider your operation—What can I do to get my people ready? My equipment set? My actions laid out? Time invested now will save a lot of potential headaches later!

We always welcome your feedback at Modern Farm Business Podcast. Do you have suggestions for future episodes, or questions on something we’ve already covered? Drop Dean a line at dean@modernfarmbusiness.com. He’ll look at each email personally and respond as quickly as possible.
As always, thank you for listening! See you next week!