I sometimes play with the idea of Country Guide publishing a series of business books based on the strategic insights we glean from the farmers in our stories. By that I don’t mean business books FOR farmers (really, that’s what we’re trying to do with every issue of Country Guide.) I mean business books for non-farmers.
The challenge with the book concept of course is that the public’s image of farmers is hardly one to suggest that farmers are people that business owners and managers should look to as sophisticated, strategically minded role models.
In fact, in perverse moments, I have a feeling that if we did publish such books, the people who buy them would be disappointed to find them stuffed with sound business thinking instead of homespun proverbs about when to make hay.
Clearly we would need to do a remarkable job on the marketing front.
That said, the argument is favour of these books is that there is just so much solid stuff to put into them, as this issue of Country Guide once again demonstrates.
“We continually look at every number,” Bill Nightingale Sr. told us in Risk, Reward. Nightingale’s farm has become one of the largest vegetable shippers in Ontario.
Western grain growers may wonder at first what they can learn from Nightingale. Texas A&M economist Danny Klinefelter says the answer is crystal clear. Nightingale takes risks. He tries new ideas. But he’s also fast at identifying which ideas aren’t going to pay, and at cutting them right ruthlessly. As Klinefelter says, the notion that a farm manager should never make mistakes is one of the most dangerous on the farm.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewn we talk to Sandy Purdy about farm business leadership. “The key for me is understanding how my mind thinks about what I believe, and the future that I create,” Purdy says.
Business leadership takes self-analysis, Purdy says. If that sounds like just words, or worse, if it sounds like pop psychology, maybe it’s time to read about Purdy in Maggie Van Camp’s Unleash Your Inner CEO.
Nor is business always easy. “Sometimes it’s difficult to cull, but you have to make the changes necessary in order to get the group together you want,” says Con Borsheim, CEO of Parkland Ventures, east of Saskatoon. It isn’t always the individual skill level of the team members that pays off, it’s the team.
In New Brunswick, meanwhile, John Wesselius reminds us that not everything is new under the sun. Despite everything that has changed on the farm, it still takes a decision-maker. Be sure to read about their family in Sticking Together.
We hope you enjoy and profit from this issue of Country Guide. Are we getting it right? Let me know at 519-674-1449, or at [email protected]