“Bring a Shovel” – How a simple quote changed my mindset in business and in life.

“If you are going to bring us dead cats, bring a shovel”.


I laughed the first time I heard this. The second time, not so much, as it was directed at me. When getting into business with a close friend, my biggest worry was that we were friends before we were business partners. I knew that sooner or later, we were going to have an uncomfortable discussion, as in business you don’t succeed without a confrontation or two. 


In terms of how this quote applies to farming and business, the quote is merely a metaphor that  serves to illustrate one of the biggest dilemmas we will face as entrepreneurs, and that is if you are going to bring up a problem, make sure you have taken the time to come up with a potential solution. Prior to this quote shifting my perspective, I had skated through most of my adult life by identifying problems and relying upon others to come up with the answers. After all, I was not a “quick start” on the Kolbe index, which means my abilities were more suited to taking solutions and building upon them after the fact. Up to this point, I had never actually been challenged to come up with the original solution. 


I also had never been challenged to do this by somebody as close to me as my new business partner was. I was used to having emotional arguments, whether it was on my own family farm or even in business. When conflict arose, my first instinct was emotion. However, this time it was different. It was a business challenge, not an attack. To be honest, I didn’t even know how to take it. I got quiet and retired back to my office chair at the time (thank God it was a phone conversation and not an in-person interaction). 


As was the case with most of my problems up until a couple years ago, I went home and sulked. As I said before, I knew disagreements would happen but that doesn’t mean I was fully prepared. The funny thing was, after a few days, I started changing my train of thought. I started to understand that my role had changed and in entrepreneurship, you need to adjust your train of thought. After all, people looked up to me for the answers now, and that is a whole new ball game than what I was used to on the family farm.


This type of mindset shift is not always apparent when it comes to business, especially in primary producer agriculture where family farms tend to react with emotion before business sense. This might be the strongest trait shared by both of my business partners. They know how to run a team efficiently and effectively. When you can step back and start coming up with solutions rather than problems, this is true business freedom, and one of the best ways to start pushing through “ceilings”.


When it comes to personal life, I have also adopted this train of thought. When things tend to go the wrong direction, I now tend to fall to the side of “can’t is not an option.” The largest of problems is now just another challenge. This change of mindset when dealing with conflict and solving issues has also allowed me to approach things with a more positive outlook, rather than staying in the negative. This lesson has carried over from business to my own personal life.


When it comes to business, especially farm business, there are many factors outside of our control. Weather, markets, policy, currency, and geopolitical issues all fall into that bowl of us as primary producers having little to no say in their outcomes. However, our reactions and the solutions we come up with dictate our future success and mitigate the amount of loss we incur. This is the lesson to be learned when it comes to mindset.


So, the next time your day does not go as planned, always remember to bring a shovel.