JOMO – In agriculture, we need to be comfortable with “not” being everything to everyone.

“I feel like I was shot out of a cannon”

 

This is how I felt leaving Toronto after my last Strategic Coach session. Not only did I start out with the late flight, but yet again they pushed me back two hours so that I would get home around the time I would leave for work. But it was okay because I had a new plan.

 

The first discussion at Strategic Coach was about looking back and projecting forward. I had written down a list of successes over the last decade, and then a list of opportunities I saw for the next. With all the large-scale changes in my life over the last decade, it was easy to identify accomplishments. 

 

It wasn’t until we started discussing with the other entrepreneurs that I noticed something that made me question success. In the last decade of what I saw as progress, I only had one personal item noted. The past few years have been all about business and growth and survival, and I hadn’t noticed the complacency in my home life. 

 

Then, around mid-afternoon, I took a new turn. It was an “ah-ha” moment. I had neglected to focus on growth and progress at home because I had FOMO (fear of missing out) in my professional life. I had worked hard to build the business from scratch with my partners, but now I was addicted and had to be part of every new opportunity and new success. 

 

This is where I saw the difference between myself and the other entrepreneurs in the room. They were excited to not be a part of every business growth or success, they were prouder that their businesses were doing it without them. 

 

They had JOMO, the joy of missing out. 

 

I have said it in almost every blog before this, as primary producers in agriculture we are the leader, the operator, and the janitor, sometimes all within the same hour of the day. So how do we move an industry that was built on the backs of the owners and the homesteaders into a self-managing, and self-multiplying operation? 

 

We trust the process.

 

Lately, I have noticed a change in many of the operations within the coaching program. From the first year to the second year, they bought into the “who not how” precedent and many, if not all, had looked or were currently looking to add employees. They had identified bottlenecks in the business that were holding them back, or at the very least had them doing jobs that were below their pay grade. Even small misses could be large enough to cover the salary of a new employee. 

 

For us, missing marketing and hedging opportunities probably could have paid for a full workforce. These are the nuances of farming, it’s just hard to see the ground when you are flying the plane. So, where do farms need to start when it comes to JOMO?

 

Executive Assistant

 

Fooled you; thought I was going to say operator didn’t you? The fact of the matter is that most farmers are stuck in the mundane for a significant portion of the day. Whether this is opening the mail, writing cheques, bookkeeping, or updating calendars, the list becomes endless when you start writing it. For most producers, one of the easiest employees and most cost-efficient jobs is an executive or administrative assistant. The other positive is that in a rural community, this is also probably one of the easier job postings to fill.

 

For us, most of our administrative employees have grown out of the role quickly. They still oversee these tasks, but with education and responsibilities, they also have become some of the most crucial individuals to our success. They update our accounting and inventory systems, they track our human resource practices and processes, and they make sure our landlords and other important relationships are looked after. This role can become so vast, that I would say this is more important than operations during the year (although now I may get some kickback from our COO on this one). In the end, this role will get a large portion of hours back to you as an owner to make the larger and more complex decisions of the day.

 

Management

 

This will be the hardest position for you to fill, and the hardest for you to delegate. As farmers, we belong in the field. Hate me for saying this if you like, but this is the wrong mentality. This would be like Jeff Bezos saying he should be on the warehouse floor. As farmers, you belong in the boardrooms and the advisors’ offices making sure that somebody is steering the ship.

 

One of the other entrepreneurs at Strategic Coach said it best – you are steering the ship. If you come down and grab an ore and start rowing with the crew, two things happen. One, you probably suck at it, and they resent you for making it harder on them, and two, they now wonder who is making sure the ship does not hit an iceberg. 

 

I loved the analogy because it is true. Even on small family farms, if you are too busy rowing the boat, you will hit the iceberg. Or to continue the metaphor, you will steer it off course and end up in the Arctic.

 

This position does not necessarily have to manage people. This responsibility is to work independently in the best interests of the owners and shareholders. Whether that is sitting in a drill, loading trucks, or setting up schedules for a large farm team, these are all tasks that should be under somebody outside of ownership if available. 

 

Now for the pushback, how do we afford this person? 

 

As CEO, you focus on the aspects of the business that make you money. Most think that putting the seed in the ground is what makes farms money. This is too simplistic, that is the part that should be automatic. What makes farms money is finding margins or controlling costs. Selling at the right time of year, procuring at the lowest price, and making sure the fixed expenses are not unmanageable. It’s a hard mindset shift, but without it, you are stuck in complacency.

 

So, how do we all find a little JOMO? 

 

We learn to trust, communicate, delegate, and most importantly get the heck out of the way. Too often we believe we are the cog that makes the engine run. We are not, we are more like the foot that controls the pedal to the gas or brake. Our teams, or future teams, are what will make things move. We just must be careful setting the ditches and letting our teams stay on the road between them.