Farmers don’t earn the harvest; it is their reward. Putting the same amount of blood, sweat, and tears into a field year after year will produce a wide range of harvests. They range from great bounty to meager subsistence. No two years are the same. The farmer works year after year yet relies on factors beyond his control to determine the magnitude of his bounty.
Like the farmer, every year, you must dive into your business. You must also feed and water it. Then you must weed and prune it. You must monitor its health throughout the season, caring for injuries or illnesses. But regarding the harvest, you must admit it is beyond your control.
We are not suggesting that you can sit back, sip lemonade, and wait on the harvest. No, harvest comes from labor.
While we cannot control the harvest, there are things we can do to increase its yield. Following are five things we can learn from the farmers.
Work for more than personal gain.
Yes, the farmer can and should participate in and enjoy the fruits of his labor. However, the farmer intends to produce for a much larger market. He hopes that the harvest will benefit thousands and more.
What is your vision for your product? How is it responding to the needs of many? The most significant lesson from the farmer is that we have to serve something greater than ourselves. The labor will be too great if our bank books, toys, or prestige is our most significant goal. In contrast, serving beyond ourselves allows the tiniest harvest to be monumental.
Dallas Willard asked an audience of entrepreneurs, “Why are you in business?” Someone in the audience answered, “Profit.” He responded, “Is that what you tell your prospective customers?” No self-respecting salesperson would headline to a prospect with the intent to make a profit off them. The question amounts to whether you:
- focus on profit with the pretense of providing value or
- focus on delivering value with earnings as an expected byproduct.
Plant first and then water.
Any aspiring green thumb can imagine the horror of watering the soil before planting the seeds. All that mucking around in mud is unappealing. More significantly, moving wet dirt around causes it to form and thicken. The result is akin to a clay pot. The seed’s roots will not be able to penetrate it.
James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, explains that before we can optimize our processes, we must define our processes. In his words, we have to build systems before we can optimize them.
The farmer works with a system. He does certain things in a defined order. He knows what needs to happen day by day and week by week. Building systems is essential to business success. Michael Gerber (The E-Myth Revisited) studied effective salespersons. He discovered that 20% of the sales force completes 80% of all sales. Searching for why that was, he learned that the 20% had systems or procedures they consistently followed. Building systems is a truth that goes far beyond sales.
It’s mainly about the soil.
You don’t need farming knowledge to appreciate the foolishness of a farmer walking into a mountain meadow and throwing any variety of fruit, vegetable, or grain seeds. A farmer would first plow and prepare the soil to receive the seed. Yet I consistently encounter entrepreneurs and those desiring to be entrepreneurs who jump in and wing it.
The practical farmer takes time to choose the locations for his fields. Then, he evaluates the current condition of each lot. He may decide to burn or eliminate existing vegetation. He would also consider the existing soil, determining whether or not it might be amended to his crop’s needs and what the price of said amendment might be. He would take these steps even before he started plowing the ground. How thorough is your business plan? Is it current and relevant?
Plan your work, and then you can work your plan.
Optimize your time.
Once you have built your systems, you can devote energy to optimizing them. Our farmer plans his week. He tries to separate the actions that require the three-point hitch on his tractor from those that require a tow bar. You do not need to understand these mechanics to appreciate the value in understanding they are different and that there is value in appreciating the difference. Similarly, only those in your industry need to understand the specific mechanics of your industry. Yet, you always benefit when you understand the unique requirements and optimize your work habits accordingly. Literature and training abound in this genre; examples include Six Sigma and Lean Management.
Learn from others
Farmers live predominantly solitary lives. Their time is spent solo, on a tractor, operating a hoe, or examining the fields and crops. Farming is, by nature, a lonely profession. Nonetheless, farmers typically have vast social networks. There is an inverse relationship between proximity and closeness. The closer I’ve lived to my neighbors, the less I’ve gotten to know them. But that is another discussion.
Farmers optimize, even if unintentionally, their socialization. For example, you can find them socializing at the supply store, equipment auctions, and harvest celebrations. If you eavesdrop, a core conversation is consistently around operations. They compare notes on some process’s efficiency or some product’s efficacy. With or without conscious intent, they are constantly learning from their peers.
Take a page from their book. Dust off a process for which you are personally most proud. Discuss it with peers at your next seminar. You will be amazed at how you draw to yourself others desirous of improving their processes. And you will learn tips of more excellent value than anything the front-of-the-room speaker offers. Study the best practices of others and thereby improve your processes.
Enjoy the harvest
Every year, you get a little better. And your growth is a direct result of your continued efforts to improve. The harvest may be greater or less than expected or anticipated. Regardless, take a breath. Allow yourself and your team to celebrate. Be thankful for the bounty, and allow the celebration to invigorate you to start the cycle anew. Life and business can be fun if you allow it.
And remember, we at Eagles’ Wings Business Coaching are here to help you. Let’s tackle a question or issue together. Use the below buttons to schedule a 60-minute Complimentary Coaching Session if you’ve defined the problem and want to build a solution, or schedule a 30-minute Strategy Session to identify and define the problem. Either way, we are here to serve.