“No Excuses!”

Previously, I have used the following quote from General Eric Shinseki of the U.S. Army to make an important point: 

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”                                             

We are in a constantly changing industry environment where decisions we made five years ago are not necessarily as effective as they previously were. It is time for each of us to take back the reins of the decision making process and adopt a more proactive approach moving forward. Management consultant Peter Drucker stated that, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Yes, you’re saying, but how can I do that, given the dairy industry’s severe downturn the past five years, and “under the present circumstances?” I’ll tell you how – Get out from under those circumstances. Change your thinking. Alter your approach. It has been said that if you keep on doing what you have been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting… I contend that is just simply not true. In some cases, it can cause you to go backward! So, what do we need to do?

Embrace change as you encounter it. Of course, we all like the familiarity of our normal day-to-day processes. At times, I am guilty of this, too. However, when things are changing as rapidly as they are in the dairy industry today, we run the risk of getting “run over” if we simply stand still. Yet, you are thinking that you just finished restructuring your bank debt and are getting most of your Vendor Payables caught up (hopefully). Can’t you stop and take a break? Do so at your own risk. Here is a list of items that I’d like you to think about: 

1.)    Where do you really want to be in five years? In ten years? How can you get there? What will it take to succeed in reaching those goals?

2.)    Who will take over your business when you are gone? Do you have a plan already in place? If not, why not develop one? Several years ago, I witnessed a sad but true situation where one person controlled all aspects of his business operation and, frankly, made all of the decisions. One day, at the ripe old age of 42, this person was killed in an unfortunate auto accident. The result was absolute chaos around his business. No one else was trained to make effective decisions, and there was no succession plan in place. It was a financial nightmare for his family. It all could have been avoided with a minimal amount of planning.

3.)    Have you implemented a “Milk Marketing Plan” yet? Are you using Put Options to establish a floor under your milk price? Likewise, are you working closely with your Nutritionist and others to lock in the best prices on feed at all times, not just now because they have been so high? Do you truly know your Break-even Points on milk price and feed cost? You need to know these!

4.)    As outlined above, have a plan on everything you do. Can you be assured of always making the correct decisions? Of course not. However, your odds of success will be greatly improved if you think about and develop your own plan for your business, particularly in comparison to letting the industry or others decide for you.

Former Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis, upon being hired to lead a team that had win-loss records of 5-7 and 6-6 the prior two seasons and hearing the players complain about the school’s administration, replied as follows:

“Quit blaming everyone but yourselves for the reason there was a coaching change. There was a coaching change because you’re 6-6 and last year you were 5-7. There was a coaching change because you guys didn’t live up to the expectations around Notre Dame… Why don’t you just look in the mirror? Maybe the reason why you were 5-7 and 6-6 is that you’ve played crummy. Just maybe.”

“He certainly got their full attention. He claimed that you could have heard a pin drop. His message had come through loud and clear: ‘No excuses!’”

                        Charlie Weis in his book No Excuses

Let’s follow Charlie’s advice and realize that, as an industry and as individual participants, we have not always played by the best laid game plan. Reset your course today and join me in accepting “No excuses!”