Strategic Planning Part 2

Use core values to build teams, pursue opportunities
Understanding your farm’s values creates clarity and alignment around what we care about at a gut level.

Written for Farm Futures and originally published July 2023.


Last month, I outlined the benefits of using formal strategic planning on farms. In addition to aligning generations as part of a transition plan, a strategic plan creates alignment and helps farmers be proactive versus reactive. Farmers have also told me that strategic planning allowed them to jump on the right opportunities and hire the right employees faster because it was clear what they truly wanted. 


I have found that the more successful the farm, the more "opportunities" come their way. One farmer told me, "I lost a lot of money believing that just because I was good at the business of farming, I thought I could run any business." Saying “No” to the wrong opportunities or people is just as important as saying yes to the right ones.  


Let's discuss the foundation of a strategic plan:  Values. 


Values are the WHY. Understanding Values creates clarity and alignment around what we care about at a gut level. The importance of truly understanding what is important to people can't be overstated.  

Assuming that because a farm is made up of family members, everyone holds the same values is often a mistake. Misalignment of core values is the root cause of most conflict and why some farms can't get buy-in for decisions. Decision-making that is very slow or doesn't happen at all is a sign that people’s values may not be aligned.  


We use core values to sift through two areas. Who is on the team, and what business opportunities to pursue. 


Understanding core values helps build a solid team.  

Think of core values as a way to sift through your pool of candidates and find the right ones.   


Using Values to sort out people?   Some of the best farms we advise have solid teams; in each case, they pay close attention to values alignment. They only hire people who fit their values.  

From their core values, they create a code of conduct and expectations on how to act. Over time the behaviors of the team build a culture that attracts the right employees and repels the wrong ones. This can sound harsh, but how many times have we had an employee or family member who didn't fit in despite their many talents and did more harm than good? 


Using core values helps sift out opportunities. 

Here is an example.  

 A farm family I work with is considering expanding their feed processing business (I'm being vague for privacy reasons), but it would require 24-hour shifts and more employees. They also have an opportunity to expand their retail business and work beside their teenage children while teaching them entrepreneurship. However, the retail business isn't a money maker at this time, while the processing makes a lot of money. So do they choose to forgo some easy profits on the processing side or build entrepreneurship with the next generation by expanding the retail? What fits closest with their values?   

 Strategic planning is a process, and Values are the cornerstone of that process. Next month we'll look further at creating a compelling vision that builds commitment among family and employees alike.  



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