February 2010 Issue

The Business Confidence Maximizer™ Online Newsletter
John Ellsworth & ©Success Strategies, Inc.

Maximizing Your Management Success

“I believe it is important to position yourself to successfully handle obstacles and overcome business hurdles.”

Do you ever have that feeling that your neighbors or brother-in-law seem to be doing better than you in certain areas of their operation? I think everyone has felt that at some point. The more significant question, however, assuming that might be partly true is: “Why?” What is their advantage over the way you normally operate?

Here is one item that I have found very helpful to people in assisting them to reach their highest levels of success.
That most important item is the implementation of Management Team Meetings. This is a concept that I introduced to my clients over ten years ago. As we have seen during that same time period, these sessions have guided many of our clients to achieve items that, had we asked them before, they would not have believed possible.

How do Management Team Meetings work?

The concept revolves around the benefits of solid communication, positive teamwork and accountability. When we meet as a group, usually every other month, we have a written agenda that we try to follow as closely as possible. The benefits of doing this are two-fold. First, it makes sure that we do not skip over any important topics we need to discuss. Second, it keeps us from getting off on tangents that almost always seem to revolve around insignificant items.

In the Tools section of the website, I have included a WORD file for your consideration and use. You may rename this file whatever you wish to and then use it for your own Management Team Meetings. (However, it is for your use only and neither the file, nor its format may be shared with others, particularly the non-subscribers to this newsletter, except in a printed format.) The primary benefit of keeping a set of written minutes during each meeting is that you will create greater accountability within your Management Team. At the end of each meeting, I send each and every Team Member a copy of the minutes (usually two pages). This is sound because it allows everyone to know what items are supposed to happen prior to our next meeting (e.g. changes in the breeding program, improved heat detection, getting some help on milking procedures or milk quality issues). It is also useful for their review prior to the next meeting.

Additionally, as the facilitator of these meetings, you will find these minutes very useful in setting your agenda for the next meeting and to make sure that you cover all the necessary items to keep you moving forward in your operation. For example, if you have discussed the need for improved heat detection at your last meeting and then established a set of steps to take to make improvements, having this in the minutes will remind you to revisit the current situation to see if you are indeed seeing positive results. Otherwise, it can end up on the “back burner” and not really get resolved. Of course, in the case of heat detection or other key management issues, this could spell disaster for you down the road.

Who should be involved in Management Team Meetings?

This is a decision that you need to make early in the process. Here are a couple guidelines for you to consider:

  1. You will want to include anyone who is a “key player” in your operation. Normally, this will include your Veterinarian, Nutritionist, Herd Manager, your Financial Advisor if you use one, your Banker if you wish and you as the owner.
  2. Include only people who have something positive to contribute. These meetings are designed to improve your business, not to point fingers at each other and determine who is at fault in an area that needs improvement. The real reason for the meeting is to make sure that you are achieving everything you possibly can. My experience has been that participants that are argumentative or critical of others do not really add to the success of the Team.
  3. When you hold these meetings, you can reach a point of saturation in terms of participation. In other words, you can get to the point where you have too many people in attendance. This will tend to impede your progress because it will often reduce the level of open dialogue between your Team members. Thus, we typically do not include anyone who is selling a product. For example, your semen salesman may be a great guy and also very intelligent. However, do you actually need him at these meetings? The same goes for feed salesmen & pharmaceutical representatives. Your Nutritionist and Vet can cover their areas of expertise sufficiently.

Why do they lead to higher levels of success?

1.) Accountability
3.) Common Goals
4.) A reason for celebrating success

I plan to make this a regular section of this program – MTM Topics for consideration – these will vary throughout the year!

Management Team Meetings (MTM) Future Topics:

If you want to maximize the success of your MTM, I suggest that you include the following items at every meeting:

  1. Herd Management Issues
  2. Herd Health Update & Concerns
  3. Herd Reproductive Performance
  4. Nutrition Update
  5. Financial Review, including what is happening within the dairy industry. This discussion can also cover what challenges you are having and how they potentially can be overcome. You should also include your team of dairy professionals in discussions of potential Capital Expenditures, i.e. what items do you need to acquire or build in the next 12 months? A conversation about their potential payback and what your Vet and Nutritionist have seen other places may prove very helpful as well.

Financial Tips for Success

I am assuming that you have already completed your Herd & Feed Inventory position reports for the year ending 12/31/09. If not, consider going immediately to our “Tools” Section of the website and downloading the Excel file located there for such purposes. Why?

  1. Your bank likely requires you to provide them with just such a position report. If not, they should. Regardless, giving them one will keep them and their auditors out of trouble by showing that you are in compliance in terms of Loan to Values (e.g. less than 65% on Herd and less than 100% on Feed).
  2. Your CPA will, undoubtedly, need this same information to complete your year end Financial Statements. It is necessary for him or her to have these numbers to generate an accrual set of statements. There is no other way!
  3. Finally, you should also be interested in this information, because it tells you a lot about how you are running your business. If you have a higher feed loan balance than what you have in inventory, it shows that you are probably not cash flowing. If your cash flow is short (as it has been for most dairymen in 2009), you need to find the extra dollars needed somewhere. The only two sources I know of include a personal cash injection from you or a good friend or a draw on your herd loan or feed line of credit. Of course, for most of us, the latter is the more likely source of funds. Thus, as you use up your feed inventory, and particularly if you can’t replenish it with new feed, your LTV % will start to exceed 100%. The best way to avoid this calamity is to always manage your LTV very closely. If you measure it often, you will be in a position to better manage this.

Monthly Reminders – W.I.N. What’s Important Now?)

I believe it is important to position yourself to successfully handle obstacles and overcome business hurdles. Let’s say you are facing a difficult business challenge. Wow!! That sounds like a call to action. I have observed that in this type of situation people often do not want to face reality, as if it will change on its own or the problem will eventually go away. The odds of that occurring are remote.

How can you deal with change? How can you turn this into a positive outcome? Here is one method that I’ve used successfully with clients and seems to work even better with tougher problems:

  1. Surround yourself with your entire team. Yes, multiple brains work better here…
  2. Develop a chart on paper or on a marker board. At the top, list the problem to be overcome or the goal that you want to reach.
  3. Work as a group to complete a “brain drain” where every possible idea that the team comes up with gets written on the board. Do not evaluate them, judge them or criticize them at this point. Just write them down with no judgments or laughter (later, it could turn out to be the best response…)
  4. Additionally, each member of the team needs to participate. This is not a passive activity where some of us can just watch. We can only capture the best ideas if we get them all written down.
  5. 1.Finally, after every idea that you can think of is written down, start to evaluate the pros and cons of each idea. However, this should not begin until you have a minimum of 20 ideas listed. I know what you are thinking – “You are kidding, John!” The fact is – I am not joking. This is the only way you can be assured of not overlooking a great option.

To give you an example of how this works, I was working with a client whose facility had become overcrowded. After listing 20 possible options, we concluded that he could reduce his herd, lower his debt levels and improve efficiencies or he could change his facility, which would add to his debt levels. Another option that surfaced was that he could diversify his operations. Eventually, he decided to decrease his herd size and diversify into some tree crops, and this is working out very well.

“Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
– Peter Drucker,
Management Expert
& Author

This process of brainstorming for all possible options can be used to work through a crisis. It can also be utilized on a regular basis for ongoing business decisions, as well. Why not try it in your operation today?




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I believe it is important to position yourself to successfully handle obstacles and overcome business hurdles.