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I recently listened to an excellent podcast from motivational speaker Brendon Burchard about how to deal with “tough times.” Life in America has historically been good, but I know many people are concerned about things like inflation, rising interest rates, government decisions and, of course, the rising stress levels associated with all of these challenges.

Here some solid suggestions from Brendon on how to deal with these challenges, especially since we don’t always know when they might arise:

  1. Raise Your Ambition Level – This is a key element of being on your “A” game, essentially “showing up!” I believe that when we actually raise our ambition level, we become more focused and benefit from additional clarity. While your competitors or those providing you with this “challenge” are still developing their game plan, you can be one or two steps ahead of them, already having considered numerous “What If?” scenarios. Many challenges come from bureaucrats, and I have found that they hate nothing more than someone who is “prepared for them…”
  2. Reframe Doubt – Brendon emphasizes that we need to overcome pessimism. As he states, “Doubt is calling you to rise, not stopping you!” Everyone has doubts. This is normal, so take a closer look at the situation and consider how you might handle it differently than just having doubts. For example, if you were having success in this situation, what would have to have happened? Trust me. The more you practice this process, the more it will become natural for you and the more you will meet with greater success levels.
  3. Reset Your Habits – Challenges like we are facing today require us to boost our Daily Focus. Just as I wrote in my prior blog, better habits and increased discipline will take you a long way toward achieving your objectives. Again, the best way to overcome bureaucratic obstacles is to succeed in spite of them. That, my friends, will take you to the Next Level!

What challenges are you facing today? Here are my recommendations:

  1. Rest up, if necessary, and then Show Up! Face the challenges head on. You can overcome them!
  2. Doubts are normal. What to do? Think your game plan through and move forward. That’s what progress is all about.
  3. Focus – As Mr. Miyagi said in “The Karate Kid” movies, “Focus, Daniel son, Focus!” This is always good advice and something we should strive to implement.

You will likely find new solutions, refine your processes and make additional, positive improvements. I’ll look forward to seeing you at the finish line!

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I recently read a fantastic blog by my friend Peter Diamandis, best selling author of Abundance, Bold and numerous other great books, within which he describes the three-step process Sir Richard Branson follows in developing and running his businesses.

Peter describes those steps as: 1.) “Being passionate and committed to fun. 2.) Experimentation. 3.) Risk mitigation.” These steps have served Branson well, as he has developed 500 different businesses to date.

The first of these revolved around having Passion for the business being developed and keeping the process fun. Do you utilize Passion & Fun in your business? Passion is what helps you to get up in the morning and hit the ground running. As Peter Diamandis explains so accurately, “Fun matters because Branson employs it as a strategy for thinking at scale – both as a fuel (i.e., a way of harnessing his passion) and as a first principle, assuming that if something is fun for him – like an airline that makes you say ‘Wow!’ – then it’ll also be fun for everyone else.”

How about Experimentation? Do you experiment with your business and then adjust course, as needed, or do you only implement changes because others in your industry are doing something? Given the large number of variables you are constantly facing, try some experimentation and then adjust course, as necessary. I think you’ll be more excited (passionate) about your level of progress.

Finally, on Risk Mitigation. You can be bold in your level of risk taking, but also be equally bold in your risk mitigation. In all agricultural markets, you can use options to offset your level of price risk. More specifically, if you are running a dairy, you can use programs like the Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP) or the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) to put a floor under your prices and maintain a positive margin. I highly recommend that you check out these programs. They are worthy of consideration every year.

I hope you find Richard Branson’s three-step process helpful in your business. If I can assist you with this process, please contact me. It’s a process that I use with my Clients on a regular basis. If you want to check out Peter Diamandis’ writing further, please visit www.abundance360.com.

Please allow me to leave you with this: Are you being passionate about your business?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I recently read an article that discussed a trend in the U.S. I don’t know if it will actually come to fruition, but I certainly think it’s worth consideration. What the article suggested was that we will all be facing a trend called “the Great Resignation.”

I feel we are already seeing it, to some extent, these past two years with increased employee turnover at many businesses. Unfortunately, it’s being compounded by COVID-19 and government handouts, also known as “subsidies.” Early and mid-career workers are starting to look at their jobs and ask: “Is this what I want and how I want to work?”

If this trend continues, we are going to witness a lot of turnover, upward pressure on wages, and a movement toward shorter hours & greater benefits. If you need an example, just look at these current trends in California. They have already started…

Most importantly, what can you do? I see three potential options.

  1. Train your workers better. Why do we assume that every new employee knows how to do every task and that it’s “cost prohibitive” to teach people how to do even better at their tasks? I remember talking to a manager who stated that margins were tight, and that there was nothing worse than training people and then having them “leave for the competition.” I suggested that there was one thing that was worse, and that’s not training them & having them stay!
  2. Introduce more automation. We are seeing this more with robotic milkers, automated feed pushers, and “catch pens” used in conjunction with collars on dairy operations. These may look expensive, but what is the alternative, shutting down due to an insufficient labor force?
  3. Prepare for more turnover. This option isn’t very attractive, and, frankly, can give most of us serious heartburn… Remember, it may look like the least expensive route, and initially it may be so, but there are many hidden costs to this approach, such as the cost of regularly having to hire new people, constant training for the same jobs over & over, the cost of taxing your managers, and these are only IF you can find replacement employees. What if you can’t?

Finally, why participate in the “Great Resignation?” You may have to pay more, but why not invest in your best people and help them to grow and succeed in their roles? Bear in mind that turnover of employees is costly. Let’s be proactive and side-step this destructive trend.

So, think about this question: Are you prepared to overcome this Great Resignation?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

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I so enjoyed a recent podcast by Tyler Dickerhoof, as part of his ongoing series entitled the Impact Driven Leader. If you haven’t listened to his December 17, 2021 podcast, I highly recommend that you check it out. It has some excellent points!

My favorite point that Tyler shared was that, so often, “We can get so caught up in what we don’t know, that we are afraid to share what we do know.” This is so true for many of us. As Tyler explains, “Who loses when we do this? Everyone around us.”

Please allow me to provide you with some real-life examples from my own consulting work, where this principle really was exemplified:

  • One of my Clients was accused of overstating the numbers of heifers in his herd by 200 head. According to the bank’s appraisal staff, he was off by this amount. Of course, this “raised a red flag” with his lender at his loan renewal… We chose to speak up, and guess what? When they recounted the heifer numbers, we were right, but what if we hadn’t shared what we did know?
  • On another Client’s loan renewal, I had completed an Annual Budget that showed a relatively solid profit for the year we were projecting. Did I know with certainty that the Client would be profitable? Of course not. It was 12 months into the future. However, I did know will almost certainty that he would not lose $400,000, as projected by the bank. I found a huge error in their calculations, and voiced my concern. After realizing their mistake, the loans were approved, and the business moved forward successfully. What if I’d simply accepted their projections?
  • For quite some time, I’ve recommended that Dairy Clients consider milking their fresh cows 4X for the first 21 days of their lactation. This typically results in cows achieving higher peak production and then attaining higher levels of milk production throughout their lactation. Did I understand everything about this process and how it worked? No, but what if I hadn’t shared it with several of my Clients? It would have impacted their milk sales and resulting profitability.
  • For years, I’ve worked on getting Clients, particularly in the dairy industry, to diversify their operations. This has resulted in Clients expanding into Almonds, Pistachios, Wine Grapes, Olive Oil Production, Various Dairy Products and, most recently, Methane from their Digesters for Energy Production. Did I know that every one of these projects would succeed? No, but after extensive analysis and knowing that they could potentially benefit, I shared with them what I did know about the positives of diversifying their operations.

So, to answer the question above: Are you sharing what you do know, or are you so caught up in what you don’t know, that you’re afraid to share what you do know?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

I was recently reading an article by Joshua Becker within which he described being out for a walk and then seeing a line of ants crossing the sidewalk that he was traveling on. He stated, “As I was watching, I noticed one ant carrying a leaf. And then I noticed another. And then another. The ants carrying the leaves were walking the same direction, and seemed to be keeping up, but the longer I watched, the more I noticed they were walking a little slower than the others… All I noticed was that some of the ants were walking peacefully while others were carrying a heavy burden. And it reminded me a little bit about life. Sometimes we walk peacefully. But other times, life requires heavy lifting.”

So, I’d like to ask you one question: Who’s doing the “Heavy Lifting” in your operation, and have you thanked them recently?

There is so much “buzz” today about the benefits of automation and the impact that will have on your labor force. I agree that it is clearly the wave of the future, and its benefits are astounding. But what if you can’t automate some functions in your operation or what if you feel you cannot afford to automate, i.e., it appears to be cost prohibitive?

In that case, you need to identify an alternative approach. Find those people in your work force who are an excellent example of what you want in every employee and use them as a model. If they have skills that you wish all your employees had, use them to teach the others by example. This process will improve the overall skill set of your Team, AND you will definitely build that employee up by literally recognizing his or her superior skills.

Likewise, the next time an employee comes to you asking for a raise, provide them with a check list of skills and ask them if they can do each and every one of those tasks. If they cannot do all of them, have them learn how to do the new tasks. Again, two things will happen. Your work force will be better trained, and they will then be worth more to your operation, allowing them to boost their income.

Do you know the future roles of your employees? Are there opportunities to grow and/or be promoted? This is huge for employees. I know you’ve been focused on your next expansion or banking issues, but remember that, just like a dog sled team, “The scenery only changes for the lead dog!” Help them define a clear path forward. As Luke Miller, DVM, recently stated at the Western Dairy Management Conference in Reno: “If you can’t trust your Team, it’s your fault, not the employees. You either hired the wrong person or provided them with no training, both of which are the fault of the employer.”

I suggest, while you are studying ways to automate your operation, think about the development of your best employees, as outlined above.

I will leave you with one final thought: Who do you need to thank for “doing some heavy lifting” in your operation?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

Author Andy Andrews, in his book entitled The Traveler’s Gift, explained that taking responsibility is the key to all success. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 3 R’s – Reading, Writing & Arithmetic. I consider “Responsibility” the 4th R!

Andrews suggests that the best path to a brighter future is to accept the responsibility for the problems you face. He added, “If I allow myself to blame these uncontrollable forces for my lack of success, I will be forever caught in a web of the past.” Instead, we should follow the famous Harry Truman mantra – “The buck stops here!” We are responsible for our own success.

Now, in all fairness, I don’t have any idea how much success you’ve enjoyed or the amount of pain you’ve endured in the process, but I do know one thing for sure. As Les Brown stated, “Wherever you are in life, you made an appointment to be there.” In order to take full responsibility for our lives and the related success, we need to stop & consider what to do.

First, build a plan. I’ve developed a successful consulting business over the last 23 years, and you know what? Clients and prospects still haven’t run out of challenges & problems to solve. Let’s face it. Problems are just part of life. However, back to the “plan” for your business & life:

  1. Determine where you want to go.
  2. What are the pluses & minuses of this idea? Anticipate the challenges you’ll face.
  3. Consider your “Why!” Usually, when I ask someone why they want to do something, they’ll respond with, “To make more money…”
  4. I’ll ask, “But why do you want to make more money?” To which they might respond, “To stay in business!”
  5. To which, I might say, “Why do you want to stay in business?” Now, getting somewhat frustrated, they might state, “because my son is in college, wants to come home & would represent our third generation on this farm.”
  6. Finally, I might ask, “Why does that matter?” Then, they will exclaim, “Having our son return and be successful as the third generation on this operation would make my Dad very happy, and, as hard as he has worked during his 85 years, I think he deserves that from us!”
  7. Guess what? While this process can be emotional and even somewhat frustrating, we have now identified your “WHY!” If you know your “Why,” the process of determining your “How” becomes so much easier.

Identify your “Why” and then determine your Action Plan, for as Andy Andrews states:

“In the future when I am tempted to ask the question ‘Why me?’ I will immediately counter with the answer: ‘Why not me?’ Challenges are gifts, opportunities to learn.”

I will leave you with one final thought: What is your Plan for next year?

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

During the last 23 years of my consulting work, there have been times when my life has seemed like a cross between two of my favorite movies, Catch Me If You Can and Up In The Air. Here’s a quote from the Actor Christopher Walken in Catch Me If You Can that I believe you will find appropriate for our discussion that follows:

  • Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.”

My question for you is this: As you face industry challenges or ones that are specific to your operation, which one are you?

I’ve been called crazy for doing some of the work that I’ve completed these past 23 years, but you know what? I love doing this work. Is it challenging and occasionally frustrating? Yes. Can it be difficult at times? Yes, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it and take all of the profit out of the process.

How do I do this? I recently reviewed my records and discovered that I’ve completed 73 financial turnarounds with Clients since 1999. That’s a lot of change! Some of these rescue missions have taken 1-2 years; others have taken 5 years or more. Some of them, following their financial recovery, decided it was time to exit their industry. The great thing on these was that they were positioned to sell out and walk away with sufficient proceeds to live the rest of their lives successfully. That news helps me to sleep at night.

So where are you in your current operation? Many industries, especially on dairies today, are facing some dire outlooks, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago.” However, the next best time is today.

Here are some thoughts for you as you think about this question of what should happen next:

  1. Begin with what I call the Discovery Process. Where do you want to go and Why? If you can answer these two questions, step #2 is easier.
  2. Complete an analysis of where you are today, in terms of assets, debts and overall cash flows. This information provides the building blocks for your success plan.
  3. Outline and discuss the challenges that you will face in your next steps. My next blog will be focusing on just that topic.
  4. Evaluate what Cash Flows will be required to make it all happen successfully.
  5. Talk to your banker. Please don’t tell me this is too tough… I’ve faced off with large banks where the Client owed $6 million and had almost no collateral. What could we do? We simply built a repayment plan and worked through it successfully. The one thing I knew going in was that there was a solution. They just hadn’t identified it. If they had, my input wouldn’t have been needed. My saying that I was sure there was a solution may sound arrogant to you, but trust me. After you’ve completed 73 of these turnarounds, you start to understand that the answer, indeed, is out there. We just have to dig it up!
  6. Once you determine your plan of action, track your Cash Flows and always know where you are throughout the year. I treat CF Analysis the same as MacDonald’s founder Ray Kroc did the hamburger. Recall what he said? “I didn’t invent the hamburger. I just took it more seriously than anyone else.” It’s the same for me with Cash Flow Analysis!

Once again, are you drowning or climbing out of the bucket of cream? If I can assist you, please let me know. I’m happy to help.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

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!

This was the question I was asked when I met with Jerry for the first time. Our discussion was by phone, but I can imagine the look on his face when he asked me this. The question that I had asked him was “What are your Break-Even Levels?”

Surprisingly, this is one of the most important items to know in any business. However, it is also probably one of the least understood concepts. Essentially, it is the Price Level or Cost of Production that needs to be achieved in order to not lose money, if all other variables remain the same.

Looking at the Chart below:

Actual        
12 Month Totals
Feed Expense/Cow/Day  $                    5.93
Feed Expense/Cwt  $                    9.21
Net Milk Price/Cwt  $                  15.86
Income over Feed Cost  $                    6.65
Breakeven Levels  Breakeven Levels
Milk Price (Net)  $                  15.54
Feed Expense (cow/day)  $                    6.14
Feed Expense (per cwt)  $                    9.53
Production (#/cow/day)                      76.45

This producer is feeding his cows for $5.93/cow/day and has been making money. You can also see that his Feed Expense per cwt is $9.21, which, given his Net Milk Price/cwt of $15.86, provides him with an Income over Feed Cost of $6.65/cwt.

Next, you can see his Break-Even Levels in the bottom half of the chart. If all the other variables stay the same, his Feed Cost per cow/day could rise to $6.14 and he would still break even. We know that he is currently making $0.32/cwt, because we know that this is the amount that his milk price/cwt could decrease ($15.54 minus $15.86/cwt) or his feed cost/cwt could rise ($9.53 minus $9.21/cwt) and still allow him to reach break-even.

What value is there in knowing this? I’m glad you asked. Knowing this will allow him to understand what changes he can make or, in the case of cost increases, what increases he can withstand and still not lose money. This information is also very useful to him in understanding where he may want to set his price floors within programs such as the Dairy Revenue Protection Program. This program, for example, is designed to assist producers to place a profitable floor under their milk price. Knowing your break-even levels is the only way to use this type of program successfully. This is what makes knowing your Break-Even levels so significant. Can I help you with this?

Want to learn more? I’d like to invite you to join me for our upcoming Next Level Thinking™ workshops later this year, within which, I’ll continue to focus on the benefits of this type of proactive thinking. We’ll be doing this through Zoom Group Sessions.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!