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Making the most of this new year

Don Tyler for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 December 2020
New year

People seem to be most open to new ideas, alternate strategies and other changes to our normal approaches during the first few weeks of the year.

They have had a chance to reflect on the previous year’s performance, personal accomplishments and perhaps a few missed opportunities.

I believe this openness to new possibilities and willingness to change is more prominent in agriculture than any other business. We’ve put a crop in storage, closed out livestock sales, finalized our tax plan and are making purchases for next year’s crop. New calves will soon be hitting the ground, and it won’t be long before materials for a new crop will begin to arrive. All these activities, repeated year after year, enhance a sense of transition that stimulates optimism.

Last year gave us more challenges than we wanted, but hopefully each of us learned that we have more capabilities than we thought. Good leaders and managers see opportunity in every situation and circumstance. Getting past one year and starting a new year is one we can’t overlook.

To maximize our new year, here are some areas to consider making updates or significant changes.

Update your businessUpdate your business plan

If you already have a written business plan, the beginning of the year is a great time to give it a full review. If you haven’t developed one, I’d encourage you to consider it. Unfortunately, many small-business owners don’t believe they need a business plan. It sounds too formal and too much work for no more than they think they will use it.

A professionally written and formatted business plan helps attract the best potential lenders, vendors and business partners by showing that your business is organized, has an established strategic plan, a vision for its future and a written track record of its progress. A regularly updated plan helps educate the next generation about the family’s history and successful business philosophies, as well as streamline the process of transitioning the business from one generation to the next.

The process of developing a written business plan has its own inherent value. Developing each area of content, discussing what should be included, compiling the information and creating your company’s story can provide your family and key businesspeople with an opportunity to share their thoughts and be a part of a significant project for your business’s future.

Review staffReview staff efficiency and effectiveness

Analyze how labor was utilized the last few years and consider ways to reduce the hours allocated to each enterprise and activity. In family operations, enhancing your efficiency and effectiveness means more time doing family activities, less stress and greater attention to areas of the business that can benefit from enhanced management.

If you’ve made investments in equipment, software, technology or other improvements that were supposed to “save a lot of time and make you more efficient …” then analyze whether or not those benefits were realized. Analyze the labor needs of each enterprise and look for opportunities to trim labor costs and improve productivity.

Update policies and proceduresUpdate policies and procedures

Every business has policies, but some of them may not be formalized in a document. Now is an appropriate time to review the employee handbook. If you don’t have one, at least write down your basic policies for time off, work schedule, pay periods, absences, safety and any issues with staff that seem to arise on a regular basis.

Job descriptions and standard operating procedures should be discussed and any appropriate modifications made.

Enhance your cultureEnhance your culture

Your company culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize your organization and define its nature. It is rooted in the organization’s vision, goals, strategies and structure. It is hard to contain every facet of a company’s culture in a document because much of it is realized in the social atmosphere of the day-to-day interactions between co-workers, leaders and others they work with every day.

Developing, reinforcing and enhancing company culture is growing more difficult. The variety of worldviews, work ethics, work habits and personal interests in any given workforce can be quite broad, making it difficult to please everyone.

A well-established culture provides many benefits including a clear understanding of appropriate and inappropriate behavior, a vision that is fully comprehended by everyone, simplified decision-making and employees that are engaged and empowered.

Begin by defining the core values you, your family and your employees feel are best for your business. Talk to each person one-on-one to get their input on their preferred culture. Ask what they feel is currently positive in the culture and what they would like to see improved.

In family operations, a good place to start is a discussion about personal preferences on work-life balance. These can vary significantly from one generation to the next and between different families. Tension develops when these lack clear expectations that are based on what is deemed fair for everyone. From there, talk about your core values, your desired image in the community and industry, and how you will express these in all your interactions within and outside of the business.

You may not be able to put all these actions in place immediately, so select one or two that you feel will give you the most immediate results and implement the appropriate plan – and anticipate a great new year.

Don Tyler is owner of Tyler & Associates Executive and Management Coaching. For more information about this topic or as a trainer/speaker, he can be reached at (765) 490-0353 or through his website at Tyler & Associates. 

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