During the past six months, I have noticed a new trend in the way people try to overcome the challenges they are facing in their businesses. They cancel previously scheduled meetings with their Nutritionist, CPA, Attorney or other Advisors. I think it can best be described as “ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away.” If you ever observe this scenario with a neighbor or your brother-in-law (assuming it never happens at your operation), here are a couple suggestions about how to overcome it.

Suggestion #1 – The challenges you face are not likely to go away if you ignore them. In fact, they could compound and become even more challenging.

Suggestion #2 – Cancelling one of these sessions, especially at the last minute, can throw your professional’s schedule off. My biggest concern is that if you urgently need them later, will they be in a position to step in, particularly on short notice? Will they even be motivated to do so?

As I suggested in my last blog, let’s focus instead on the Solutions, not just the problems. Along that same line, we should always remain open to meet, to learn, to develop new objectives and adjust our course as needed, because no one is immune to items changing.

This is all part of what I call “Working on the Business, Not Just in the Business!” It will lead us to complete the following tasks:

  • Answer the question of “What will your business look like in 10 years?”
  • Will you personally be fulfilling the same role or doing different tasks?
  • Who will your competitors be in the future? Sound silly? Consider the impact that products such as Almond Milk or Oat Milk may be having on dairy supplies. Will it become even greater in its future impact?
  • What obstacles do you see in the short term or over longer time periods? What’s the impact of higher inflation, rising interest rates, or increased industry regulations?
  • Keeping these factors in mind, have you begun developing a roadmap for overcoming these hurdles?
  • Are you pursuing your objectives or those of your banker, your industry or someone else? These are all key points to consider.

Can I assist you with this same process? If so, be on the watch for some upcoming Next Level Thinking™ workshops.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Sound like a silly question, especially in light of our current challenges with higher inflation, rising interest rates, and many hurdles you are facing in your business today? I don’t believe so. Despite these items that are impacting us all, this could, in fact, be the best time to stop, take a deep breath and consider everything that is happening. Most important, what course of action should we take to counter these current challenges?

In a recent Inc. magazine article by Marcel Schwantes, Steve Jobs was quoted as stating that “Living Your Best Life Really Comes Down to 3 Words.” And, what are they? “Follow. Your. Heart.” Sounds like great advice, but let’s consider why. The best reason is that if you don’t follow your heart, you will be placed on someone else’s agenda.

As Jobs pointed out, we all have limited time on earth. He added, “Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Most people seem to know what they don’t want in life, but it’s far more important that we identify what you do want. If I asked you this question, could you clearly define it for me? This is significant, because if we delineate what you do want, then we can define the potential obstacles to achieving this, start to identify potential solutions, and lay out a definite game plan for moving closer to your goal!

Former President Donald J. Trump stated, “Brilliant business operators take problems and turn them into gold.” How do they accomplish this? By overcoming obstacles and then providing solutions. President Teddy Roosevelt added that, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining!”

With that in mind, let’s face our challenges by taking several steps: 1.) Decide what you want to see. 2.) Define it clearly in your mind. 3.) List all the potential obstacles to your success. 4.) Outline the possible solutions to these challenges.

Can I assist you with this same process? If so, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

During a recent meeting with a business prospect, he shared his frustration with the rising costs of most inputs, especially the commodities he has been purchasing for his dairy operation. He was quite adamant about it, too, stating, “What’s the use? I’m about to give up…” He has historically been very profitable, as illustrated by his strong equity position.

In response, I shared with him the following quote from the movie “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein: The main character Denny is advised by his driving coach that “There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

The same is true for us today. Challenges will arise, but we must stay in the game. As I have stated numerous times, if you measure something, you can understand it. If you understand it, you can control that item, and if you can control it, you will be better positioned to improve it. This is true for both Revenue and Expense items in your business.

I complete monthly financial analysis for each of my Clients and I believe it has allowed us to accomplish several tasks. First, on the cost front, it has allowed us to catch expense items that are rising more quickly, providing us with an opportunity to make adjustments to their cost structure before these items get out of control.

Additionally, it has led us to start identifying new Revenue sources. While this may sound impossible to some people, I have Clients in the dairy industry who also sell Almonds, Walnuts, Grapes, Methane captured & converted into various energy products, Breeding Stock, Beef, Dried Manure for bedding and Feed Crops for other livestock operations. Are some of these possible for your operation? It is likely worth your consideration.

One final benefit that Clients have attained by having our financial analysis regularly. They know what their Break-Even levels are for Selling Prices, for their Costs/unit and for their various Production Levels. Just knowing these measurements equips them to fully understand what items need “fine tuning” and to what degree, assuming other variables stay the same. It provides them the information they need to take action and move toward greater profitability.

Can I assist you with this same process? If so, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

It seems that there is a great deal of uncertainty on the part of business people today. There are numerous reasons for this, including the impact of higher inflation, its rising costs, higher taxes and maybe even more regulation. The following excerpt was written by a lady named Jacqueline G. back in February to the Editors of the Stansberry Research newsletter, and while you may or may not agree with her thoughts, I believe there is a positive message here for us.

Many of your readers writing in seem to have the mindset that life needs to come to a complete standstill until interest rates subside. Yeah, 3% was nice. I locked in a refi at slightly more than that.

But I entered college when Reagan was Prez. When he took office, the Prime Lending Rate was something like 22%. My guaranteed student loan rate was 13%! And that was supposed to be a better rate than the bank would have given me. 13%, folks! There was no Amazon yet, and I got gouged like crazy for my college textbooks. A few years later, when hubby and I bought our first house, interest rates were down. That little starter home only cost us 9.5%.

Life didn’t stop back then, and it won’t stop now. People need to work and shop and go to school and buy houses and cars and get married and have babies and start businesses and go to the doctor and on and on. If the media would shut up for five minutes, people might actually go live their lives instead of whining about interest rates. Does the government’s own debt load and the interest on that make a difference now? Of course it does, and you can thank your elected representatives…

Meanwhile, I have a life to live. And I have better things to do than complain about interest rates, which is about as useful as complaining all the time about the weather.

As I said earlier, you may or may not agree with Jacqueline, but her comments are worth reviewing. What is the message?

First, life moves on, and we all have a choice. Will you move forward or digress? I think it’s also important to remember that in these challenging times, it’s not just about cutting costs. Maybe it’s about boosting efficiencies. I recently had a Client, whose labor costs are off the charts, apologizing for his operation’s labor inefficiencies. If it truly is not his employees’ fault that their labor costs are so high, then it’s his responsibility to work closely with his employees to squeeze more productivity out of the business, either by updating and streamlining activities or possibly automating some tasks.

The point is that we can never wait for these items to fix themselves. While this may, indeed, be a challenging time for our economy, we cannot wait for things to be “just right” to make changes. Go forward and create a game plan for improvement!

Can I assist you with your Success Plan? If so, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

If you are like a lot of business people, my Clients included, you have to be feeling pressured with the impact of inflation on so many costs. These include fuel prices, which, frankly, could be improved with clearer thinking and less political drama. However, it also includes items such as labor, insurance and just about any type of supplies or building materials.

If you aren’t feeling the impact of these rising costs and the painful rise in interest rates, as a result of the Federal Reserve Board’s efforts to control inflation, you are truly “living a charmed life…” It appears, as I write this, that the Fed is gaining better control over inflation, but, unfortunately, it is still at the highest level we have seen since 1980. Yet, the unfortunate thing is that once we incur these price increases, they will likely stay with us for a long time.

Thus, it becomes imperative to budget for these higher costs and then manage them as much as possible. Where do we begin? My Business Coach Dan Sullivan, co-founder of the Strategic Coach organization, said, “All progress begins with telling the truth.”

What is he saying? Specifically, he is stating that we need to clearly identify where you currently are in terms of costs and the offsetting revenues you are producing in your business.

Please recall that in prior writings, I’ve suggested that if you measure something, you can understand it. If you understand it, you can control that item, and if you can control it, you will be better positioned to improve it.

The specifics of these revenues and expenses, mentioned above, represent the Measurement part of this success formula. Once you have measured them, you can obtain a better Understanding of them, providing you with the ammunition you need to positively Control them. It will give you the detailed information you need to analyze your cost structure, in comparison to your available revenues, and make changes that can Improve your business’ bottom line results.

Will it be perfect? Probably not, given the variables I listed at the beginning of this article. However, it will position you to complete regular monthly comparisons of your Budget vs. Actual results and then make changes, as necessary. Additionally, if you set out some written goals, create action commitments related to them, and share these with your business partners, banker and employees, you will have created an “Accountability Team” that will help keep you on track. The benefits of this process can be enormous!

What I find especially appealing is that when you implement this process, you will be the greatest beneficiary of these steps. While it may sometimes appear that your banker, for example, is consistently hitting you with MUSTS, an acronym for “Making Up Stuff To Scare” themselves, they really do have your best interest in mind. Your Banker, your Vendors, your Family and your Employees all want you to succeed! And, I do, too.

Can I assist you to be more successful? If I can help you on this, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

That is an excellent question and, likely, one that we often attempt to avoid answering. However, putting a more positive spin on the same question, what can we put into place to minimize the chances of us meeting with failure.

Famous business consultant W. Edwards Deming, who developed the foundation for the large success of the Japanese automotive industry stated that “94% of all failure is due to the system!”

Now, without knowing the specifics of your business operation, I cannot in all honesty tell you what systems you need to put in place to succeed. Frankly, none of us has all the answers. For example, why does sour cream have an expiration date? It’s already sour, isn’t it?

All joking aside, if you want to maximize your chances for success, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggests that you, “Do what you love and put your whole heart into it.” In other words, do everything you can to optimize your results.

With that in mind, do you have business systems in place for your operation? One approach is to think through all the tasks that need to be completed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Then, outline the steps, actions & requirements for completing those tasks.

As you outline those items, consider how they should be completed, in the event that you were not there to supervise their completion. I’m not wishing anything bad for any of you, but true systems allow people to function in an optimal manner, regardless of who is doing the activities. That is precisely why you need these tasks to all be written down. Then, if you have a health issue or are gone on a vacation, even a new employee can complete the necessary steps.

Remember, Systems are key! One other point for consideration. Get your employees involved in developing & outlining these systems, because when you are gone on that vacation I mentioned, they will be the ones successfully implementing the system. In fact, they will be more likely to take “ownership” in it if you have included your Team as you outline your business protocol and solve challenges!

Are you positioned to succeed? If you don’t determine a plan for your business and life, guess what?  Someone else will! It may be your banker, your landlord or some government bureaucrat. If I can assist you on this process of developing better systems, contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

In a recent Inc. magazine article I read, its author Marcel Schwantes talked about the value of being vulnerable. Sound scary? I thought so, initially, but what the author talked about was the benefits of being vulnerable with your Team, for example.

What are the primary benefits? First, Dr. Rene Brown calls vulnerability “the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” She explained that this is necessary for leaders to connect with & inspire others, e.g., employees.

We often think of vulnerability as a sign of weakness. However, Brown states that vulnerability is one of the most accurate measures of courage: “I cannot find a single incident of courage that is not completely underpinned by vulnerability… Think about the last time you saw someone do something that was brave, and I guarantee you vulnerability will be there.”

It is also about building trust, for example with your key employees. In other words, it is okay to let them know that you do not have all the answers. In fact, it’s very healthy, and will likely lead them to step up and assist you. It also lets them know that you are only human…

I hope you find this discussion helpful. Being vulnerable can often be sign of maturity and a solid leadership skill!

Are you positioned to succeed? Remember, if you don’t determine a plan for your business and life, guess what?  Someone else will! If I can assist you on this process, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Considering the rising costs of so many inputs today, are you concerned about your bottom line results this year? If so, I think you are on the right track for meeting with greater levels of success. Congratulations for thinking ahead!

As I have stated so many times previously, if you measure something, you can understand it. If you understand it, you can control it, and if you can control an item, it is far easier to improve it. Yet, to truly measure our bottom-line results, we must have a system to accomplish this process. That is where an Annual Budget becomes crucial. It’s very difficult to make Actual to Budget comparisons when you don’t have your expected results budgeted.

As we consider the current rise in other operating expenses, a person can start to feel overwhelmed. I understand.
 
Ultimately, however, we each need to rise above the pressures & move forward. No one ever said that life would be easy. I love the following quote from management guru Peter Drucker in his book entitled The Age of Discontinuity:
 
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
 
What does he mean? I believe he is saying that we need to do all we can to create the future we want to have. Wherever we are in life, we made an appointment to be there. Our positions today have been determined by choices we made in the past. Future results will be influenced by what we do today.
 
1.)  The volatility of all agricultural markets has risen during the past 20 years. That’s a fact. However, the tools to deal with this change have been in place for quite some time. You can use put options to protect against severe downturns in milk prices without giving up the upside potential of higher prices. I know that they cost money & may go unused, but not using them just because they may not be exercised makes about as much sense as scolding your insurance agent because he sold you house insurance and your home did not burn down!
2.)  You can contract some costs as much as you are comfortable with. Many of my Clients have been doing this for years. Unfortunately, during the last 10 years, I have observed that many feel the need to lock in every item at the absolute minimum cost. This is probably unrealistic for anyone. Do the best you can, but don’t hesitate to make the decisions you need to in a timely manner.
3.)  All of your other expenses can be projected and should be monitored on a monthly basis. Regular review of your expenses can be critical to catching those cost items that are getting out of line earlier. Start by developing a reasonable budget to make your comparisons with, and if you need assistance, please contact me.
4.)  Finally, even with a solid plan in place, you can occasionally get off track. The key is to recognize the problem early & get back on course.

Are you positioned for success? If the consideration of these four points can boost your financial results, why not give them a try? I have seen this process work for my clients. If I can assist you on this process or in seeking increased efficiencies, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

They say that “curiosity killed the cat.” That may be true, but perhaps that’s why they supposedly come equipped with nine lives…

One of the most curious and successful people ever was the late co-founder of Apple Steve Jobs. Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ives explained in the Wall Street Journal that Jobs “was without doubt the most inquisitive human I have ever met. His insatiable curiosity was not limited or distracted by his knowledge or expertise, nor was it casual or passive.  It was ferocious, energetic and restless.  His curiosity was practiced with intention and rigor.”

How curious are you in your business?  Ives goes on to explain that “our curiosity begs that we learn. And for Steve, wanting to learn was far more important than wanting to be right.” We can utilize curiosity to challenge others’ limiting views of the world.  Entrepreneurs and other leaders often create real value by questioning current belief systems. Entrepreneurial business coach Dan Sullivan states “Opportunities for entrepreneurial innovation and profit are increasingly found in the failure of bureaucracy.” 

Inc. magazine states that curious workers are good for business.  One prime example of this is with 3M Corporation, whose employees are instructed to spend 15% of their time experimenting with the development of new products. How much time are you spending developing new ideas and systems within your business? This is not a time to “play scared!” All of our businesses will be facing additional challenges as we move forward, and I think the cost of this experimentation is vastly outweighed by the benefits of being curious. It is noteworthy that employees who are curious will positively impact their coworkers. If that is true, then imagine the positive impact of adapting this new approach.

Are you positioned to succeed? Remember, if you don’t determine a plan for your business and life, guess what?  Someone else will! If I can assist you on this process or in seeking increased efficiencies, contact me today.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Are you facing some productivity hurdles in your business? A recent article in Inc magazine by Marcel Schwantes entitled “Research Says Employees Need 3 Things to Drive Their Happiness at Work” stated that “happy workers are, quite simply, better and more productive workers.”

Now, before you tune out this message as “stupid happy talk,” please consider the potential impact of these three factors. The first is having a “meaningful and compelling vision.” In other words, do your employees see a vision of the future for your business and truly understand how & where they fit in? Schwantes points out that this can foster greater loyalty than money and perks alone can provide. In summary, do your employees see this future vision, and do they understand their role in it? Without these key ingredients, productivity levels will suffer.

The second key ingredient is “connecting their purpose to work.” If people feel that their work matters, their productivity will usually increase. Make a point of discussing how even the most mundane and repetitive tasks contribute to your Team’s overall mission and success. This can be a great motivator for your employees.

Finally, it will support and be beneficial to “fostering healthy relationships.” Trusting and supportive relationships lead to greater levels of collaboration and a more positive work experience. Schwantes explained that “when those relationships are present in the workplace, employees report a much more positive employee experience than when that support is absent (77% vs. 35%).”

Are you positioned for success? If the consideration of these three points can boost your productivity, why not give it a try? I have seen this process work for my clients. If I can assist you on this process or in seeking increased efficiencies, please contact me.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!