When I meet with my Clients, I often remember reading an article in Inc. magazine written by Adam Hanft that was entitled “The Risk of Doing Nothing.” I thought the article had some themes that were particularly fitting for the dairy industry. I realize that it is often more comfortable to do nothing when so many items look bleak. However, doing nothing can often put you at greater risk than boldly moving forward with what looks like the correct option. Look what happened to Montgomery Wards as they stood by and watched Wal-Mart become, not only the largest retailer around, but also one of the largest companies of any kind. As I write this blog, I am comfortably seated at my favorite café owned by a company called The Roasterie in Kansas City, Missouri. While they appear to be thriving, think about the comparison between this company and Folgers, who also had a large operation here at one time. Wow! The key is to break the “Continuum of Paralysis.” As Adam Hanft so accurately states, “No one decision to defer action ever looks all that monumental at the time.” However, over time, look out! The sad part is that indecision rarely punishes current management, but it often “mortgages the future.” Thus, for those of you with another generation potentially coming into your business, can you do better for them? Here are some things to do to get through the current situation:
- Do not misinterpret the industry situation of the last two years as an excuse to keep your finger on the Hold Button.
- Rather, look at your Costs/cwt, your Volume of milk produced, Labor Utilization, and how you might spread your Fixed Costs out even further.
- Just as important – Ask yourself, “Is there a better way we could do this…?” Often, your Management Team can offer you some suggestions. Recently, one of my clients made some simple changes in their feeding program and also changed the age at which their heifers were being bred. These adjustments boosted production nearly five pounds per cow per day and reduced their heifer raising costs. This has been very helpful to their bottom line!
- Along that same line, be open to new ideas. We must overcome the ongoing temptation to think that it is more risky to try new ways of completing tasks than it is to keep everything unchanged. In this dairy industry environment, doing nothing can get you run over!
- Put together an ACTION AUDIT and see how well you stack up against the rest of the industry. Are you currently doing everything you can to stay competitive? Are you taking the time to complete and measure the small tasks that can have a large impact on your operation? This is not just about costs per cwt. It is also about how your operation is faring in terms of Cows Milked per Hour, Labor Efficiency (cwt shipped/employee), Heifer Efficiency (e.g. age at first calving) and many other items.
- One other thought as you compare yourself to the industry. You will likely notice that you are doing better than others in terms of costs/cwt in some areas and not as well as other producers on other items. Sometimes your facility can restrain your performance in comparison to a new operation, but how are you doing compared to your results five years ago? Are you doing better or worse?
To summarize, don’t just resist change. Remember that the best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is TODAY! Make an appointment with greater levels of success. As one of my favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown, said about making improvements in your business, “You gotta be hungry!” Consider the possibilities of his statement as you continually strive for excellence. Remember, it’s your business!