Now may be the perfect time to re-evaluate operation and your goals

This past week, I taught a session at the state Soil and Water Conservation District Summer Supervisors’ School. The session was an overview of the current agriculture climate and many of the risks involved in the business.
One of my summary statements was ‘make time to take stock’.

Re-evaluate

What I meant by this statement is for farmers to take a look at their current situation and analyze whether or not expectations are being met for the business, family and personal objectives.
Considering everything else that you must worry about and plan for, is it really a good use of your time to stop and take stock at this point in time? I would offer that now is a very good time.
By taking a look at the farm’s financial situation today and also looking back over a few years’ financial records, you can determine if today’s financial situation is a result of the current state of the dairy industry or if it is a problem that has been growing quietly over the past few years.
Another beneficial exercise when ‘taking stock’ is to look at individual enterprises within the farm business and determine if they are financially beneficial to the business, or maybe there is a more efficient and cheaper way to get the same end result.
For example, this might be the right time for your farm to consider purchasing hay rather than trying to producing it yourself, or having your heifers raised by a farm specializing in that business.

Consider expansion

On the flip side, maybe this would be a good time to add a new enterprise to the farm to gain additional revenue.
Once you know where you are, begin looking at your goals and determining if they are in line with what you want for your business, your family and yourself.
When setting goals, be sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals. Goals should be:
Specific — each goal needs a specific focus.
Measurable — you must be able to track the goal and determine if it was achieved.
Action-oriented — without action you will never reach your goals.
Realistic — goals should help you stretch and grow, but still be within reach.
Timed — a timeline must be determined or the goals may never be reached.
Set a deadline. We all need deadlines to help motivate us in reaching our goals and completing tasks. Remember that there are different types of goals you will need to set and refine over time. These types include production goals, business goals and personal goals. As a farm business you will have to work together to be sure that your goals align and everyone is willing to work toward those goals.
For more information on setting goals visit http://ohioline.osu.edu and search for the OSU Extension fact sheet “Setting Goals for the Farm Business.”

Mission statement

Now too, would be a good time to revisit or develop a mission statement for your farm business. What does your farm do and why are you doing it? These are important questions that the mission statement answers and important questions you need to understand when you are taking stock of your business.
For more information on writing a mission statement visit http://ohioline.osu.edu and search for the OSU Extension fact sheet “Developing a Useful Mission Statement for your Agricultural Business”.

Family members

Farm businesses are different from other businesses since they are tied very closely to the family. It is essential when looking at goals, mission statements, and decisions that will be made as a result of your ‘taking stock’ that the family is included.
Take time to ask what their goals and expectations are. Maybe you knew at one time, but goals and expectations may change over time and difficult times may lead individuals to adjust or completely change their goals and expectations.

Hearing good and bad

As the farm manager, you may hear things that are difficult to hear, but it is essential that you keep an open mind and open line of communication. Working through the goal setting process as a farm family and farm business won’t be easy, but it will help you make better decisions for the good of the family and the farm.

It will make your farm business stronger in the long run, if that is what you decide to do. The important thing at this point is not to procrastinate. It may be a challenging process as you discuss goals and expectations, but at least you will have the opportunity to make decisions.
The longer you wait the fewer choices you may have. There will be others who will step in and make the choices for you.
(Julia Nolan Woodruff is an OSU extension educator in Erie County.)

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