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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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Nov 29, 2018

Episode #75: The 70-20-10 rule

For long-term results, divide your time
Today we’re talking about being intentional on how we invest our time leading our business. It’s easiest to stay busy with all the immediate demands our business puts on us—a truck in need of repairs, paperwork that the bank needs, a meeting with the landlord, grain to be hauled...the list goes on. Sure, it’s all important, and it all needs to be done—but when tasks consume a leader’s every moment, there’s never an opportunity for that leader to work on shaping the future of the organization. 70-20-10 is a helpful leadership philosophy which advises us where to best invest our time and money.

70% = The core of the business / “What truly matters”
Most of our time should be spent getting the stuff done that truly matters to the business: Support the employees, take care of the crop, work with suppliers, etc.. These things must be done—and they must be done well. This is where great organizations exhibit the habit of execution. But we can’t spend every minute working on the business of today. If we don’t prepare the organization for tomorrow we’ll be boosting efficiency at the cost of losing more and more effectiveness over the long-term.

20% = Future planning / “What’s next”
A smaller portion of time should be spent getting out in front of our business. This requires a bit more intentionality and discipline because it’s about being proactive rather than ticking off a “to do” list: Have lunch with a potential lender to build a relationship for the future, work on a new skill, research a new piece of equipment or a new tillage program, etc.. These are the things that don’t demand we spend time on them, but for which we must carve out the time—we have to commit, put it on the calendar, and then follow through. Once these behaviors break the ice, we can better steer the operation toward our intended future. This 20% of our time, however, carries two caveats:

  1. Be intentional: Think about the areas you want to make progress in for the farm--the skills and relationships you want to develop. Then, get specific—What are you going to do? Where are you going? When will this happen? If you don’t plan it, the day-to-day will squeeze out the time for it—because future work is never urgent.
  2. Be reasonable: Don’t fall so completely in love with this “What’s Next” space that you let your core business suffer. I’ve seen operations spend so much of their time going to trade shows, meetings and trips for learning and networking that their crops didn’t get planted on time, their landlord relationships weren’t tended to and their bookkeeping fell behind. This is ignoring the core of the business that actually funds where we want to take it tomorrow.

10% = Innovation time / “What could be”
The smallest amount of time should be invested in learning about possibilities: play around with trends, new revenue sources, fresh approaches to business processes. This is your sandbox—the place to fail in the safety of a very small scale, and to learn from those failures. I’ve got an innovative vegetable farmer client who devotes a small parcel of land each year to trying out new products and varieties, knowing full well most of them won’t work out but that small failures can lead to big wins. The same two caveats apply:

  1. Pick something and act on it: We’re talking about the far-out stuff that’s easy to put in the “someday” category.
  2. Keep it small: The risk is having a radical, game-changing idea—and literally betting the farm on the change. This innovation space is about taking a big chance on a small scale. Likewise, we can’t let innovation consume us and let the core of the business suffer.

How do YOU invest your time and resources? Are you doing your best just to get through the tasks of the day? How can you carve out time to sharpen your saw, to prepare the business for what’s next? What can you do to explore innovations that could be the future of your operation? What can you do to start uncovering what the future of your business could be?

Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at See you next week!