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Are you actually preparing for what’s next? I’m not talking about post Afghanistan, after our summer temperatures abate, or after Apple stock goes over $200/share. I’m talking about your business. Business Coach Brendon Burchard stated that “we are always preparing for something.”

Yet, are your current routines and thinking creating the future that you want in your life and business? Author Dennis Waitley talks about us getting stranded on an island called “Someday Isle,” where the weather is perfect, and we have no challenges in our business or life, that which he actually interprets as “Someday I’ll…”

You know, Someday I’ll: 1.) Get my employees to do all the necessary tasks without being reminded. 2.) Have all of my taxes paid. 3.) Have none of my expenses increasing at an alarming rate… The list goes on.

I’d like to review what I’d explained in a prior blog, released on May 25, 2021:

Several years ago, my Business Coach Dan Sullivan of the Strategic Coach organization offered an excellent idea for everyday use. It’s called the WinStreak®, and it’s available as a free app that you can download on your phone.

It provides a simple, but powerful, way to accumulate more “wins” in your business and life. At the end of each day, you list your three greatest accomplishments for the day. It will also ask you to list the three largest objectives you intend to accomplish tomorrow.

The payoff is that instead of dwelling on the tasks you didn’t do or the items that you didn’t complete, it helps you to focus on what you have done, as well as what plan to achieve tomorrow. I’ve been doing this for at least three years, and it has helped me focus on what really matters.

Along the same line, you can summarize the three best things that happened this past week and, if you had a chance to relive this same week, what would you do differently?

The key is that, as we move forward in business and life, let’s focus on preparing for what’s next. Will we ever know with certainty what is going to unfold as we go through the week? Probably not. However, just the very process of reviewing what went well, and what we can do to make next week even better, will help prepare us for a brighter future.

You, too, can stun the world with the items you discover and the objectives you achieve. However, this will require you making this day, this week, this month an “intense time,” one characterized by proactive thinking about how you can make your outcome even better than you ever imagined. You are going to be operating your business & leading your life anyway. Why not make it more prosperous and enjoyable?

My question for you is this: What one task or achievement, if you accomplished it this year, would generate a genuine sense of accomplishment and extreme momentum to carry you into the future?

Knowing this one thing will keep you off of ‘Someday Isle!”

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Of course, the answer is “Yes!” We all do, but now that I have your attention, let’s talk about the opposite position. Do you have any good habits?

Once again, the answer is “Yes.” Of course, you have some good habits. I do as well. I track my weekly results on multiple key measures, I call my adult children at least weekly, my son and I are going through a Napoleon Hill study weekly for all of 2021, and I try to sleep eight hours per night.

Do I succeed all of the time on each of these items? Not quite. However, I typically get very close to 100% on these and several other measurements each week. One of the most positive discoveries I’ve made throughout this process of developing these habits is that I have created a “System,” through which I am able to typically complete them in a timely manner, and if I skip a day on any of them, I actually notice the difference in my performance or outcome.

These are some of my business and personal habits that are creating positive outcomes. Now, I’d like you to think about some in your life and business. Please allow me to give you some examples from a recent Client meeting I had.

This Client, a mid-sized dairy operation, has had a solid history of profitability over the years, but their milk production had plateaued, and, on some days, it had even fallen off considerably. During our discussion, it became clear that, with the labor challenges all operations are currently facing, several tasks just weren’t getting completed consistently.

Free stall beds were not getting raked daily, and feed was not being pushed up regularly. Now, we wouldn’t consider skipping a day of milking the lactating cows in the herd, and we wouldn’t skip breeding cows for several days. So, why skip the other management routines that are so crucial to high production?

The primary problem in both of these areas was a lack of training. With all of the employee turnover this Client had experienced over the past two years, new employees were not always aware of what they should have been doing. It took some training and teaching one employee how to drive the tractor to push up feed, but it is now working.

What was the key to this improvement? A “System,” based upon a foundation of good habits. Raking the free stalls daily, pushing up feed every three hours, 24 hours per day, and several other managerial tasks are what will help take your operation to even greater success.

Create your list of tasks (habits) that need to be completed to develop a system in your operation today. When you make a concerted effort to do this and get it written down, you, too, will notice it when any of these items gets overlooked. However, when you’ve created a “System” of good habits, you will then know exactly what to do next!

Let’s take your business to the Next level!

So often, we get caught up in the throes of responding to various crises in our business. You know, feeling like you are always “on call,” just waiting to put out the next fire… We basically are, as Author Dan Heath suggests, “…downstream, handling one problem after another, but we never make our way upstream to fix the systems that caused the problem.” So, why do we act in this manner?

I have two suggestions. First, you do not have to act in this very manner. Second, I’ve worked with my Clients to avoid this problem. I’ve taught them to respond, when needed, but, more significantly, start exploring (as Dan Heath describes it) “Upstream,” in effect where the problem started.

Let me provide you with a real-life example. My Client was a distributor of various fruits & vegetables. They would contract with growers, and then market these items after they were “re-packed” into their containers. Historically, they were fairly profitable, but their labor costs were getting out of control… Imagine that!

Regardless of what type of business you are in, you should consider the similarities of their situation with that of your company. Whether you measure your Revenue, Expenses and Profitability on a per box or per bag basis as they did or some other measure, this same thinking is still applicable.

If we know our costs, as we did in this case, and we understand the historical levels of rejected units under normal conditions, we can predict, with some degree of certainty, our expected results & profitability. Remember, if you can measure it, you can understand it. If you can understand it, you can control it, and if you can control it, you can improve it! Looking at these early in the process is what Dan Heath calls “Pre-game measures.”

The next step Heath suggests is to “Align incentives.” With this mind, we reinvented the labor/pay structure completely to include incentives for these workers to produce positive results. Since we had already modeled their Revenue, Production & Costs, we could simultaneously incentivize the workers and boost results on both their productivity and the profitability of the company.

As a direct result of going “Upstream,” several positive things happened. First, the workers involved made more money by being incentivized (And, trust me when I say: not everyone bought into this concept. They left for what they assumed were greener pastures elsewhere…). Next, the increase in productivity levels was astounding, partly as a result of the remaining employees “buy-in” to the new process. Finally, the profitability of the company jumped dramatically from a seven-figure loss to a very healthy profit, as we had predicted!

This is just an example of what can happen when we go “Upstream,” and rather than just “putting out fires,” in this case on the Labor front, actually determine the true source of the problem and then work to preemptively correct it. In stark contrast to their old program, which wasn’t working for either the Company or its Employees, this new incentivized program worked better for both of them. My question for you is this:

“Where, when and how will you go Upstream in your business?”

If you will continually do this, I guarantee that you will continue to expand your future opportunities and profitability results! I urge you to please join me in making the changes we need to in order to succeed and prosper! As we move forward with my Next Level Thinking™ blogs, I’ll continue to focus on the benefits of “Upstream” thinking from Author Dan Heath. If I can assist you in any way on this process, please reach out at john@success-strategies.com or at 209-988-8960.

Wow! My Client was irate, possibly just plain hurt, by the negative commentary. As you know, the years of 2015-2018 were tough years for profitability in the dairy industry and some other agricultural sectors as well… He had met with his loan officer, and despite being profitable in both 2019 & 2020, this is the message he caught: “You are a problem loan!”

What? Problem loan customers don’t show profits for two years in a row, reduce their Accounts Payable by over $200,000 and also service their debt structure as agreed. Oh, and did I mention that the Client’s Loan to Value was 60% on his herd loan and 80% on his feed line, along with an excellent diversification plan in place?

The point is this. If we had been playing football, the loan officer would have been flagged for unnecessary roughness! I understand that being a loan officer is not an easy task, but being one also doesn’t give him or her a license to be a butt-head either… The job isn’t that difficult. I know, because I did it successfully for eight years. My message for this loan officer is one that comes from former President Teddy Roosevelt, who said:

“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

Now, more significantly, what can you do, as a borrower, to avoid being the recipient of such “unnecessary roughness?” I’d suggest the following items, which this borrower had already put in place:

  1. Monthly tracking & reporting of Inventories & Accounts Payable.
  2. Monthly Cash Flow Analysis of your operations. Remember, if you measure it, you can understand it. If you can understand it, you can control it, and if you can control it, you definitely can improve it!
  3. Regular CPA Prepared Financial Statements, at least 2X per year.
  4. Positive goals that seek to boost profits long term.
  5. A Diversification Plan in place to survive the downturns.
  6. A Plan that includes opportunities to evaluate, adjust course and implement the process.

Following these steps doesn’t guarantee that you won’t become a target of “Unnecessary Roughness,” but I assure you it will prepare you for greater levels of success and the ability to stave off any success comments.

I urge you to please join me in making the changes we need to in order to succeed and prosper! As we move forward with my Next Level Thinking™ blogs, I’ll start my focus on the benefits of “Upstream” thinking from Author Dan Heath. If I can assist you in any way prior to that, please reach out at john@success-strategies.com or at 209-988-8960.

The realization is now – Written by Marketing Expert Seth Godin

*** I wanted to share a copy of Seth’s article with you, simply because I believe it has a fantastic message, one that could serve as a sound directive to get our country and hopefully keep your business on track in so many ways. This was actually written five to six years ago. I hope you enjoy his thoughts, which fit almost every industry (The italicized items are my comments.):

“New polling out this week shows that Americans are frustrated with the world and pessimistic about the future. They’re losing patience with the economy, with their prospects, with their leaders (of both parties).

What’s actually happening is this: we’re realizing that the industrial revolution is fading. The 80 year long run that brought ever-increasing productivity (and along with it, well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class) is ending.

It’s one thing to read about the changes the internet brought, it’s another to experience them. People who thought they had a valuable skill or degree have discovered that being an anonymous middleman doesn’t guarantee job security. Individuals who were trained to comply and follow instructions have discovered that the deal is over… and it isn’t their fault, because they’ve always done what they were told.

This isn’t fair of course. It’s not fair to train for years, to pay your dues, to invest in a house or a career and then suddenly see it fade.

For a while, politicians and organizations promised that things would get back to normal. (Remember, this was written 5-6 years ago, not during our recent pandemic… It’s fitting today, though, isn’t it?) Those promises aren’t enough, though, and it’s clear to many that this might be the new normal. In fact, it is the new normal.

I regularly hear from people who say, “enough with this conceptual stuff, tell me how to get my factory moving, my day job replaced, my consistent paycheck restored…” There’s an idea that somehow, if we just do things with more effort or skill, we can go back to the Brady Bunch and mass markets and mediocre products that pay off for years. It’s not an idea, though, it’s a myth.

Some people insist that if we focus on “business fundamentals” and get “back to basics,” all will return. Not so. The promise that you can get paid really well to do precisely what your boss (…or government leaders claim) instructs you to do is now a dream, no longer a reality.

It takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the record business, even computers… one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than we’d like.

It’s unpleasant, it’s not fair, but it’s all we’ve got. The sooner we realize that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we’ve got. Whining isn’t a scalable solution.”

I urge you to please join me in making the changes we need to in order to succeed and prosper! Next month, I’ll start my focus on the benefits of “Upstream” thinking from Author Dan Heath. Stay tuned. If I can assist you in any way prior to that, please reach out at john@success-strategies.com or at 209-988-8960.

Put yourself in this situation. It’s been a tough year, accompanied by lower sales & a small financial loss. I know – some of you are thinking – like normal… I know it can be painful. In fact, when I worked in the banking industry, we had a term for that. It was called a SNAFU, which stood for “Situation Normal, All Fouled Up…” I have a suggestion for you.

As you wrap up 2020, perhaps it’s time for a serious review of your accomplishments, e.g. what went well, what could have been better, and, perhaps most significantly, where can we improve?

First, what went right? What steps did you take & why do you feel it went so positively? When you know the answer to these questions, you have established the foundation for even greater success. How can you build upon it? Is it something that you will be able to repeat? If not, why not? Are you sure of this? If it worked in 2020, it could very well work going forward. Maybe you just need to make some adjustments & make it happen!

Next, what are the areas within which you fell short, and, once again, why? Was it due to the COVID pandemic, the economy or other items beyond your control? Was it due to poor or limited planning? Was it planned okay, but poorly executed? Please don’t take the answers to these questions lightly. Your future success might be dependent upon these very answers…

Finally, what are the areas that you feel you can do better on? More importantly, how? Here are some steps you can take to reach your objective(s):

  1. Determine what you want to pursue now. Define it clearly in your mind. If you don’t, guess what. Another year could go by, and you’ll still fall short of that objective!
  2. What steps do YOU need to take? What is your first one?
  3. Who else can assist you with this process? Are they already on your Team, or is it someone from outside? Forget about “saving your way to prosperity.” The right person on some of these tasks will pay for themselves 5-10X over. Ask anyone who has ever been saved from the brink of financial disaster. They never considered the cost, just the potential benefit.
  4. When do you want to achieve this result?
  5. What will the “drivers” of this challenge need?

If you can truthfully answer these five questions, you will undoubtedly position yourself for a stronger finish. If you take the time to complete this process, I’ll look forward to seeing you at the “Finish Line!” If I can assist you with this process, please contact me at john@success-strategies.com or 209-988-8960. Best Wishes for a joyous Holiday Season and continued prosperity in the coming year!

This is a question I recently asked a new Client of mine. Please allow me explain my thought process. During our initial discussions and analysis, we had discovered several areas of his operation that needed some ‘fine tuning.” In other words, they were unintentionally off course in terms of their costs. Please take my word for it. They were way too high, in comparison to other producers.

To provide you with some background, his production was solid, and most of his expenses were admirable in comparison to industry guidelines. However, his Feed Expense and Cost of Supplies were both well above where they should have been. I had originally assumed that they were two separate challenges. However, as it turned out, they were both traced back to a common source.

For years, in an effort to save money, he had used the same Nutritionist from a local feed company. However, while saving the $1,000/month fee of a neutral third-party Nutritionist, he was spending thousands more on Feed Costs. His Supplies expense was also being impacted by the use of some “Pixie Dust” powder that was being added to the calves’ rations. Please don’t ask me why it was included in his Supplies cost. I assume it was placed there as a result of its’ “medicinal benefits…”

Now, understand that any Nutritionist can run into these same challenges and then need to make some changes. The difference here was that his current feed advisor wasn’t willing to make the necessary changes. With the guidance of another Nutritionist, this producer lowered his Feed Cost by $0.40/cwt and decreased his Supplies Cost by $0.10/cwt. Now, this change generated $10,500 of reduced costs per month. After paying the new Nutritionist $1,000 per month, his bottom-line return was still boosted by $114,000 per year.

Now, while the net impact of this change was dramatic, my point is not to pick on his former Nutritionist. This situation could happen with almost any advisor. The significance really revolves about the willingness of this producer to fully analyze these sizeable cost variances and then actually take the steps to improve his results. How much money had he left on the table because he was “too busy” to make these changes? Our industry is one with thin margins in most years. That is precisely why it’s so important to take action today! Do you know the best time to plant an Oak Tree? The best time was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today.

Going back to the original question, “When Will You Find Time?” your very survival depends upon this type of thinking. Based upon my experiences of the past 22 years, it will make a huge difference. If I can assist you with this analysis process, please contact me at john@success-strategies.com or 209-988-8960.

Hopefully, I caught your attention with this question. Please allow me to explain. Read on & see 3.a. below. Cal Newport in his fantastic book Deep Work defines “Deep Work” as:

 “…the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy.”

As you attempt to wrap up 2020 which has, at times, been very challenging, this focus on “Deep Work” becomes very crucial. Here are a couple of questions for you to consider as you strive to finish strong this year:

  1. What items went right this year? We probably all tend to dwell on what items went “sideways,” but think about and write down what went well. Was your production per cow better this year? Could it be, going forward? What’s your profitability look like, especially in light of the CFAP money from USDA? Are your 2020 costs in line? How about Labor costs? Did your 2019 investments pay off? What else would boost efficiencies?
  2. What needs to change? Are there better cost controls you need to put in place? For more on that specific topic, please see my October 14th NLT blog entitled “Why Bother?” Do you need to maximize Labor Efficiency, i.e. become more productive, especially in light of rising labor costs? How about your debt per cow, especially as we consider the strong possibility that, at some point in the future, we will see lower milk prices…? Do we need to decrease your debt levels?
  3. Most important, ask yourself, What’s Next? Treat this like “Deep Work,” because that is precisely what it is. My recommendation includes the following:
    1. Go Away! No, I’m not telling you to get lost. Just simply get away from your everyday distractions and do some “Deep Work” on your business, using the information above as a guideline.
    1. Focus on what, specifically, you want to see next year! Yes, I know it’s only late October or early November as you are reading this, but soon the Holidays will be upon us, and will you find time then? Not likely…
    1. While you are in solitude & focused: What specifically do you want to accomplish next year? Who is involved? What steps do you need to take? By when? Do your proposed changes require some financial analysis? If so, please contact me if I can assist you.
  4. Take the time to focus on this “Deep Work” now. Your future success depends upon it!

If I can assist you with any steps of this process, please contact me at john@success-strategies.com or 209-988-8960.