Dairy Excel: Farm with a winning business attitude

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The top manager or managers set the tone for everyone else in a business.

A winning business attitude comes from the top. Others in the business cannot overcome pessimism, incompetence, negativism and lack of leadership from the top.

Top managers are most likely to build winning business attitudes if they are plan makers, information users, opportunity seekers, risk takers, people helpers, organization builders and enthusiastic learners.

Plan makers. Plans cannot guarantee your future success but a manager should never face the future without planning.

The process of planning has great value even when it results in plans never fully implemented.

In the absence of planning, managers are responding to events rather than anticipating them.

Planning includes SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Managers need to know their internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats to the business.

Writing a mission statement helps answer the question, why are we in business? Once managers agree on their mission, they can proceed to identify the specific goals that will lead to accomplishment of the mission.

The final part of planning is determination of strategies and tactics to accomplish the goals. A changing economic, technological, financial, market, legal and competitive environment requires continuous attention to planning.

Postponing planning is like a sailor leaving port with no map, no destination and no navigation instruments.

Information users. Tradition, memory and experience play a role in building a winning tradition. Alone, they are not enough.

Managers must use information from within the business and from many outside sources.

Better information for decision making starts at home. A computerized record keeping system that routinely provides summary information about the baseness is a must for most managers.

Few managers are so brilliant and intuitive that they can succeed with no record keeping system.

Looking across the line fence to observe what the most successful neighbors are doing is a long-standing tradition among farmers. The “looking” now must extend far beyond neighbors.

Opportunity seekers. Seeing opportunities that others miss is key to a winning attitude. Believe that there is a way.

“When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.” As old as this quote may be, it helps understand managers with winning attitudes.

Opportunity seekers are creative, imaginative and willing to be wrong. They are comfortable being in the minority. They seek niches to exploit. They value flexibility.

Change provides opportunity, so managers with winning attitudes welcome it.

Risk takers. Farming was, is and always will be risky. No manager can know the future with certainty.

Some decisions will fail to have the expected outcome. Managers can reduce the uncertainty of their decisions through more and better information. They accept that some things – future weather, prices and calamities – are unknowable.

It isn’t taking many risks or large risks that makes managers successful. It is how they take the risks and how they use the risk management tools available to them.

Managers with winning attitudes make brave decisions based on careful analysis and available information. They avoid stupid decisions based on hunches and wild guesses about the future.

People helpers. A winning attitude about people results in both family members and employees being considered critical to business success. Managers help their family members and employees.

“Our strength is the quality of our people.”

“People are our most important asset.”

Managers with winning attitudes often make these kinds of statements.

More important, on a day-to-day basis, they make certain that people around them know the statements are more than just words.

Actions show a real commitment to helping others advance their careers and lives.

Organization builders. Every manager wrestles with the problem of how to organize the work, people and equipment in the operation.

Failure to build an effective organization results in confusion, inefficiency and frustration for everyone involved.

Managers organize businesses. It does not happen automatically. Accepting the responsibility to build an organization attuned to a business mission and goals is the first step.

Enthusiastic learners. No business manager in 2002 knows enough to manage a 2007 business.

A manager can easily get so busy this week and this month that too little time is devoted to getting ready for the future. The best managers want to learn more, understand more and apply more of what they are learning.

The tyranny of the urgent often consumes mediocre managers. They fall prey to bloated egos and know-it-all attitudes. They regularly blame others for the changes they face rather than learning how to deal with the changes.

(The author is an ag economist at The Ohio State University specializing in human resource issues and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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