Recently, I had a meeting with a Client and his banker, designed to update the bank on our progress to date and our plans for the next 12 months. Usually, I find these sessions very beneficial for both the Client and his bankers. This one was somewhat tense, as I had expected it would be, given that I had rejected all of the bank’s “recommendations” for this operation…

Let’s look at three of them:

First, they felt the Client should sell his heifers to raise capital and pay down debt. Really, I thought, and what will they use for replacements? Perhaps they could buy them, but based upon what we’ve seen on the prices of springers & fresh two-year olds these past several months, that would have been costly.

Next, they suggested that he sell his entire herd and just plant trees. This has merit over the long term, but if the client sold his entire dairy herd and planted trees on all of his farmable acres, what would his revenue source be during the next 4-5 years while these trees were coming into full production. This also would require a major capital expenditure and addition of debt. How could they service the interest on this new debt?

Finally, the bank suggested that we sell part of the Client’s land to reduce debt. Their Loan-to-Value on the real estate was 40%. Wow! In hindsight, we would have missed the upturn in land values for properties like this that have multiple sources of water.

Upon rejecting these shortsighted suggestions, we were immediately reminded about how lucky we were to have their financing… He suggested that the dairy industry was such a train wreck waiting to happen, so we should get out while we can. I wonder if I should forward him a copy of the Daily Dairy Report, showing $24-25/cwt milk prices? Yes, feed is high, but margins should still be solid.

At this point, I borrowed a line from former Vice President Mike Pence in the 2020 VP Debates and stated, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your facts.” So, what was he implying?

  1. That this was a short-term game? Perhaps it was for the bank, but not for my Client. They were in it for the long haul.
  2. We didn’t know what we were doing? Since this discussion, heifer prices are up, and I’m glad we are not having to buy any. Trees are great, but I’d hate to be buying feed on the open market today with its high prices.
  3. Land values are up, and, as result of this and the solid herd management that has been put in place, several other banks are now interested in this credit relationship.
  4. Why decrease debt levels if your Loan-to-Value percentages are in line with positive industry standards and your performance is steadily improving? I don’t know.

This Client’s performance is trending upward and is on track to exceed our projections for this year.

Please allow me to leave you with this: Are you receiving the most optimal financial advice? If I can assist you on this, please feel free to contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

You may recall the concept of the Gap and the Gain from a prior Next Level Thinking blog that I published on March 15, 2022. I’d like to explore this concept further because I believe it can impact many of us in both our businesses and lives.

As Dan Sullivan, the creator of the Gap & Gain Concept and Co-Founder of the Strategic Coach organization, stated, it’s similar to walking toward the horizon for 30 minutes and then looking toward it. You will feel like you’ve made no progress at all (the Gap). However, if you look back and see how far you’ve progressed in comparison to where you started, you will experience what he describes as the Gain. The same principle holds true in your business.

Similarly, if you start contracting some of your costs (feed & fertilizer) or some of your revenue streams through programs such as the Dairy Revenue Protection program or other Hedging Strategies, you can get caught in the “Gap” where you are looking at where you’d ideally like to be and then get frustrated with your current progress.

On the contrary, if you observe how far you’ve come today in comparison to where you started two years ago, your primary focus will be on the progress you’ve achieved, instead of “utopia.” This will help you avoid encountering unnecessary frustration.

Dan goes on to explain that some people who are very successful have great lives and are quite satisfied, while others in similar circumstances are very unhappy. “Why is that? The key is in how they look at life. The brain has a great ability to see a vision of how things could be in the future. The trick is to use that ‘ideal’ as inspiration, and not to measure your progress against it, because it will always continue to change and evolve as you do.”

He adds: “In order to feel happy about your achievements, you need to measure them against where you’ve started from. This will keep you out of ‘The Gap’ and constantly living in the positive zone – ‘The Gain.’ When you measure your progress against your starting point, you will always have a sense of success, satisfaction, capability and confidence.”

I would agree that your best approach will be to always measure your progress against where you started. Then, celebrate your “Wins” along the way, too, and realize that you are, indeed, making gains. Before you know it, you’ll be across the finish line of success!

Please allow me to leave you with this: Are you being caught in the Gap?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I recently came across a quote from my Business Coach Dan Sullivan, which I feel is appropriate for our current times:

“Entrepreneurial confidence lies in the willingness to look for the certainty and uncertainty in every situation.”

                                                Dan Sullivan, Co-Founder of The Strategic Coach

I believe you’ll agree that there is a great deal of “uncertainty” in our lives right now, but are you spending adequate time identifying both the “uncertainties” and the “certainties” in your business and life? While we need to give sufficient study to both areas, we need to be careful we don’t get caught up in just those that are uncertain. If we do, we will be subjected to freezing up our thinking, and, in general, that is not a positive outcome.

Beginning with items of certainty, I suggest that you identify them and consider how you can integrate them into your business operation. However, if they are truly “certainties,” there is no need to dwell on them. Simply consider how they can help you, and then address the “uncertainties” that you are facing.

To start, recognize that these are areas that you are unsure of, so we need to consider multiple possibilities or potential outcomes that could occur.

  1. List your objective, i.e., your best possible potential outcome and set a date for its completion. Remember, a goal without a deadline will likely remain a “dream.”
  2. Next, list all the potential obstacles you are facing. Some of them could be those same uncertainties. Then, outline potential strategies you could use to overcome them, as well as who, specifically, will implement the strategies you’ve listed.
  3. Once you’ve refined your steps, take Action on them!
  4. Will you call 100% of these steps perfect? Probably not, but as Motivational Speaker Les Brown stated, “All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is usually enough!” The problems arise when people start taking shortcuts and don’t actually do all they are capable of doing…

Follow these steps, completely & thoughtfully, and you’ll be able to master the process of Strategic Planning. When you do, many of the prior “uncertainties” will become more certain, effectively providing you with “Stepping Stones” to greater levels of success!

I hope you find these recommendations helpful in your business. If I can assist you further with this process, please contact me. It’s one I use with Clients on a regular basis.

Please allow me to leave you with this: Are you caught in an uncertainty trap?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I recently read a fantastic blog by my friend Peter Diamandis, best selling author of Abundance, Bold and numerous other great books, within which he describes the three-step process Sir Richard Branson follows in developing and running his businesses.

Peter describes those steps as: 1.) “Being passionate and committed to fun. 2.) Experimentation. 3.) Risk mitigation.” These steps have served Branson well, as he has developed 500 different businesses to date.

The first of these revolved around having Passion for the business being developed and keeping the process fun. Do you utilize Passion & Fun in your business? Passion is what helps you to get up in the morning and hit the ground running. As Peter Diamandis explains so accurately, “Fun matters because Branson employs it as a strategy for thinking at scale – both as a fuel (i.e., a way of harnessing his passion) and as a first principle, assuming that if something is fun for him – like an airline that makes you say ‘Wow!’ – then it’ll also be fun for everyone else.”

How about Experimentation? Do you experiment with your business and then adjust course, as needed, or do you only implement changes because others in your industry are doing something? Given the large number of variables you are constantly facing, try some experimentation and then adjust course, as necessary. I think you’ll be more excited (passionate) about your level of progress.

Finally, on Risk Mitigation. You can be bold in your level of risk taking, but also be equally bold in your risk mitigation. In all agricultural markets, you can use options to offset your level of price risk. More specifically, if you are running a dairy, you can use programs like the Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP) or the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) to put a floor under your prices and maintain a positive margin. I highly recommend that you check out these programs. They are worthy of consideration every year.

I hope you find Richard Branson’s three-step process helpful in your business. If I can assist you with this process, please contact me. It’s a process that I use with my Clients on a regular basis. If you want to check out Peter Diamandis’ writing further, please visit

Please allow me to leave you with this: Are you being passionate about your business?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

It is a fairly common practice to compare your operation with others in your industry to check “how you compare with others.” This is a good idea, but it also has some limitations that we all need to keep in mind. Is your business identical in absolutely every respect to the others being used in the Comparison Summary? I doubt it.

With this factor in mind, please feel free to review these comparisons, but then let’s take this process even further. My Business Coach Dan Sullivan stated that “Amateurs compare, but professionals measure.” What does he mean?

Given that your operation is not identical to every other one used in the industry comparison, I think we need to be careful. For example, if you are milking in a double-12 herringbone parlor, it will be tough for you to compete with a 50-stall rotary barn for labor costs. If you have 12 employees, but a similar size operation has robotic milkers and only six employees, will that be a fair comparison? Probably not. If you are farming 200 acres vs. someone with 2,000 acres (& probably bigger, better equipment), will you look competitive? Not likely…

May I suggest an even better approach? Look at these industry comparisons, and then go one step further. Look at how you performed in your most recent year compared to the prior three years. From this, you will acquire a more beneficial comparison, because you will be comparing “apples to apples.” This is looking at your business from year to year and will tell you where you are making progress, as well as what areas you probably need to seek improvement on.

You will recall that I’ve suggested that if you measure something, you can better understand it. If you understand the measure, you can then control it, and if you can control a variable, you can improve it. That principle works here, too. If you see some cost in your operation rising (for reasons other than short term supply issues, e.g., with fuel), you can then focus on ways to improve this area, using the year-to-year comparison you have made with your own operation.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to remain competitive with the top tier of your industry, but you need to be sure to keep this in perspective. Otherwise, you can get caught in a trap of what Dan Sullivan describes at the Gap and the Gain. For example, if you walk toward the horizon for 30 minutes and then look toward the horizon, you will feel like you’ve made no progress at all (the Gap). However, if you look back and see how far you’ve progressed in comparison to where you started, you will experience what he calls the Gain. The same principle holds true in your business!

Consider looking at your operation vs. others, but don’t overlook the progress you have been achieving within your own operation. That way, you’ll benefit more fully from the comparisons, and if I can assist you in measuring your progress, please let me know.

So, think about this question: Have you been caught in a Comparison Trap?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I recently read an article that discussed a trend in the U.S. I don’t know if it will actually come to fruition, but I certainly think it’s worth consideration. What the article suggested was that we will all be facing a trend called “the Great Resignation.”

I feel we are already seeing it, to some extent, these past two years with increased employee turnover at many businesses. Unfortunately, it’s being compounded by COVID-19 and government handouts, also known as “subsidies.” Early and mid-career workers are starting to look at their jobs and ask: “Is this what I want and how I want to work?”

If this trend continues, we are going to witness a lot of turnover, upward pressure on wages, and a movement toward shorter hours & greater benefits. If you need an example, just look at these current trends in California. They have already started…

Most importantly, what can you do? I see three potential options.

  1. Train your workers better. Why do we assume that every new employee knows how to do every task and that it’s “cost prohibitive” to teach people how to do even better at their tasks? I remember talking to a manager who stated that margins were tight, and that there was nothing worse than training people and then having them “leave for the competition.” I suggested that there was one thing that was worse, and that’s not training them & having them stay!
  2. Introduce more automation. We are seeing this more with robotic milkers, automated feed pushers, and “catch pens” used in conjunction with collars on dairy operations. These may look expensive, but what is the alternative, shutting down due to an insufficient labor force?
  3. Prepare for more turnover. This option isn’t very attractive, and, frankly, can give most of us serious heartburn… Remember, it may look like the least expensive route, and initially it may be so, but there are many hidden costs to this approach, such as the cost of regularly having to hire new people, constant training for the same jobs over & over, the cost of taxing your managers, and these are only IF you can find replacement employees. What if you can’t?

Finally, why participate in the “Great Resignation?” You may have to pay more, but why not invest in your best people and help them to grow and succeed in their roles? Bear in mind that turnover of employees is costly. Let’s be proactive and side-step this destructive trend.

So, think about this question: Are you prepared to overcome this Great Resignation?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

In a recent interview before their playoff game with the Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Tomlin, Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was adamant about what it would it take to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He stated:

“Don’t blink. If you’re a blinker, cut your eyelids off. This is not gonna be for the faint of heart. We understand what type of game we’re in. It’s gonna take a ridiculous effort and 60 minutes of it. And we’re excited about it.”

As a Chiefs fan, I’m happy that the Chiefs won the game very handily, but the main point is this. Aren’t you and I in the same position in our respective industries? We cannot afford to blink today, can we?

If you are running a dairy operation, your feed costs are higher at present. If you are a grower who is selling these higher priced feeds, your year may seem “easier,” but you have to be thinking way ahead about upcoming taxes and other challenges. All businesses today are being slammed with higher costs, simply due to inflation and the recent supply chain challenges. My goodness. It practically costs $200 just to have someone look at a simple repair anymore, that is if you can find someone to look at your necessary repair(s)…

If you are buying or selling assets, decide what you want to pay or are willing to take, in the case of a potential sale, and then don’t look back. Don’t blink!

If you are negotiating with a bank, never blink. Instead, have a well laid out plan, know your pluses & minuses (what’s fairly sure & what’s uncertain), and then act accordingly to implement your plan. If I ever blinked with a bank, I’d never be able to complete “business turnarounds” successfully. I can think of two specific cases in the last three years where the bankers were insistent that my Clients should start selling assets. I totally disagreed.

In both cases, I was proven correct over time. Did it happen overnight? No. However, it did not take long before my projections came to fruition. Yet, I had to hold the course, just like Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies, who said, “Certainty of death, small chance of success. What are we waiting for?” There was no “blinking” allowed.

In both cases, these Clients are now well positioned for added success. Yes, they had “dug a financial hole,” but they were also very willing to change course. Of course, the best way to get out of any hole is to stop digging! To their credit, these operations are now both on track with sound cash flows, rising prices they are receiving, outstanding productivity and finally some diversification plans in place. They have a bright future.

So, think about the question above: Are you prepared to not blink?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!


I so enjoyed a recent podcast by Tyler Dickerhoof, as part of his ongoing series entitled the Impact Driven Leader. If you haven’t listened to his December 17, 2021 podcast, I highly recommend that you check it out. It has some excellent points!

My favorite point that Tyler shared was that, so often, “We can get so caught up in what we don’t know, that we are afraid to share what we do know.” This is so true for many of us. As Tyler explains, “Who loses when we do this? Everyone around us.”

Please allow me to provide you with some real-life examples from my own consulting work, where this principle really was exemplified:

  • One of my Clients was accused of overstating the numbers of heifers in his herd by 200 head. According to the bank’s appraisal staff, he was off by this amount. Of course, this “raised a red flag” with his lender at his loan renewal… We chose to speak up, and guess what? When they recounted the heifer numbers, we were right, but what if we hadn’t shared what we did know?
  • On another Client’s loan renewal, I had completed an Annual Budget that showed a relatively solid profit for the year we were projecting. Did I know with certainty that the Client would be profitable? Of course not. It was 12 months into the future. However, I did know will almost certainty that he would not lose $400,000, as projected by the bank. I found a huge error in their calculations, and voiced my concern. After realizing their mistake, the loans were approved, and the business moved forward successfully. What if I’d simply accepted their projections?
  • For quite some time, I’ve recommended that Dairy Clients consider milking their fresh cows 4X for the first 21 days of their lactation. This typically results in cows achieving higher peak production and then attaining higher levels of milk production throughout their lactation. Did I understand everything about this process and how it worked? No, but what if I hadn’t shared it with several of my Clients? It would have impacted their milk sales and resulting profitability.
  • For years, I’ve worked on getting Clients, particularly in the dairy industry, to diversify their operations. This has resulted in Clients expanding into Almonds, Pistachios, Wine Grapes, Olive Oil Production, Various Dairy Products and, most recently, Methane from their Digesters for Energy Production. Did I know that every one of these projects would succeed? No, but after extensive analysis and knowing that they could potentially benefit, I shared with them what I did know about the positives of diversifying their operations.

So, to answer the question above: Are you sharing what you do know, or are you so caught up in what you don’t know, that you’re afraid to share what you do know?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

One of the most enjoyable gifts I received for Christmas was a placard for my office by Marla Rae that shows a picture of a cow in the back of a pickup truck with a sign on the driver’s door entitled “Cow on the Prowl.” At the top of the placard, the following words are printed:

“Live like someone left the gate open!”

As we start a new year, this seems like good advice for each and every one of us. Is it time to consider new challenges in your business this year? What tasks, specifically, do you need to address? If there are one or two changes you could make in your operation, especially if they are not cost prohibitive, what would they be?

Have you set some new objectives for this year? If you are running a dairy business, how about striving to make 80 pounds of daily milk on your Holsteins or 60 pounds on your Jerseys? This will be a good time to do so, given the high projected milk prices this year. Why not capitalize on those improved prices?

Have you looked at the Dairy Revenue Protection Program for putting a floor under your future prices? How about the Dairy Margin Coverage program? Although milk prices will likely be higher, the pressure of continued high feed costs could still impact margins.

What does it really mean to “Live like someone left the gate open?” I think this means that we need to look at new possibilities, try some new tasks, and push forward with a good attitude, regardless of outside factors. Maybe it even means reaching some new levels of productivity or improving our banking relationships.

Again, regardless of what industry you are working in, do you know your costs of production? If you operate a dairy, what’s your Cost/cwt? If you run an almond orchard or a wine grape vineyard, what are your costs/acre to produce your crop. If you have a manufacturing facility making a product, what’s your cost/unit sold?

I’ve worked with numerous businesses for over 23 years to help them know their costs of production and improve these numbers. They are absolutely crucial to your success! Remember, if you measure this, you can understand it. If you understand it, you can control it, and, ultimately, if you can control it, you can improve it!

If you know your costs and the resulting profitability, you have some powerful options:

However, you know what the biggest benefit will be? If you live and operate “like someone left the gate open,” you will explore new options, consider & refine your current business pathways, and choose the best options for you. And that, my friends, is the most direct path to Success!

One final thought: If you were to live like someone left the gate open, what is your next step going forward?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

This is a question that a new Client, referring to his bank, asked me recently. My first thought was: Beautiful Dreamer… Then, I thought the better of it and shared the following ideas with him, simply because I felt he deserved a more solid answer.

You see, this new Client had not consistently provided his banker with on time reports over the prior two years. He felt he was “too busy…” Doing what, I thought?

He had no CPA Prepared Financial Statements, and he never provided them with a budget since he felt “that was their job.” As a result, he really didn’t focus on regular Cash Flow Analysis or measuring Inventories. It was simply a state of chaos!

If this describes you (or someone you know…) consider the following:

All Bankers must “serve two masters.” They have a difficult job. They are trying to provide you with what you need as a borrower, and they need to protect the assets of the bank (by not making a bad loan). It really is a tough role. Not impossible, just challenging. I know because I was a loan officer for two major banks. It was a role that I reconsidered after being held at gunpoint in a bank robbery…

In any event, it’s not our job to make your banker’s life and loan approvals more difficult! On the contrary, think about ways that we can make their lives easier:

  • Talk to them about what your objectives are for your business & life. They will likely be very interested to hear this information.
  • Provide them with a clear Annual Budget at the start of each year. This helps you both think about areas where you may need to tighten some details.
  • Do regular Cash Flow Analysis of your results vs. the budget in my prior point. Even if it isn’t “All Roses,” it certainly is better to know sooner. If a problem exists, you can start to fix it before it gets beyond repair!
  • Have regular CPA Prepared Financial Statements. These are crucial to bankers.
  • Complete at least Quarterly Herd & Feed Inventories to maintain your Loan to Value % at a reasonable level.
  • Hold Management Team Meetings with your Key Advisors.
  • Finally, meet with your Banker 1-2X per year. They will love touring your operation to see your progress and will also appreciate a meeting with you at their office occasionally.

So, to answer the question above, if you are doing these tasks, regardless of what type of business you are in, your Banker will be happy, and you’ll be the ultimate beneficiary of these sound efforts via an easier loan approval process! I’d be remiss if I failed to state that every business needs these items. If I can assist you with them, please let me know.

I will leave you with one final thought: Have you covered all of these items in your operation? What is your Plan going forward?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!