Blue Sky Thinking
Once a year we try to do one ‘get away’ vacation that has nothing to with cattle. The idea is that, since even my family visits have a cattle focus, spending a few days away from cattle all together can help put things in perspective. This year, we had the opportunity to spend a week-end cruising between Miami and the Bahamas. While Hurricane Sandy, provided a fair bit more wind and surf to our trip than we expected, it did allow for plenty of opportunity to do some ‘blue sky thinking’.
From an operational viewpoint, getting away is one of the management tips that I have picked up. For any small business owner / farmer / entrepreneur, long hours are often spent with the day to day focus and detail work – scheduling in at least one ‘vacation’ away from the operation is essential not only for personal well being (the chance to relax and unwind mentally, reconnect with a significant other that sometimes takes a back seat to the farm), but also from an operational perspective. Time away allows a step back from day to day operational activities, to focus on big picture longer range planning.
I consciously ensure that we to do this long range planning with our cattle operation. While it is essential to have a short term plan to ‘pay the bills’, utilizing time away to ensure that short term thinking doesn’t overwhelm any long term thinking is vital to the overall health of an operation.
Long range planning is a little different than day to day planning. It tends to be more of a process of trying to identify trends, or to anticipate the future state of how the industry will work, and then work backwards to see what short term plans should/could be adjusted within our own operation in order to meet what is projected to be the demands of the future. Of course, the crystal ball is not perfect, so other questions then arise; how quickly to adjust, how many resources to invest in a change, and whether there are any short term negative consequences for your operation.
This process may sound complex, but then, by its very nature, breeding cattle is a complex business – there are so many different genetic and management decisions that can be made to change your operation, that it always seems like there are more options that should be considered. One of the largest challenges we face (with our smaller sized operation), is that due to our size constraints, there are only so many opportunities we can pursue within our farm, while still maintaining our focus on producing top quality cattle. As a result, we have to prioritize our objectives and decide which ones to focus on, while ensuring the consistency of the herd remains strong.
It was great to get away for a week-end, but now that we are back home the more challenging part begins. Planning without action is fruitless, so the next step becomes implementing those ideas, and ensuring that there is a method of quantifying progress built into those day to day routines.
Plan. Implement. Evaluate. Adjust. A big-picture circle that just keeps on turning.