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Begin with the end in mind

FG Editor Lynn Olsen Published on 31 December 2010

I am a big fan of the author Stephen R. Covey  and think there is great wisdom in many of the principles he teaches.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®, one of the habits he discusses is to “begin with the end in mind.” I have always found this to be very sound advice, in business and in life. 

As I was considering editorial topics to discuss in 2011 Progressive Forage Grower issues, the usual subjects of planting, fertilization, irrigation, harvesting and many other things that go into producing high-quality forage easily came to mind.

But as important as all of those things are, paying attention to the business side of things is possibly even more important.

Whether you are producing forage for your own animals or to sell to others, running a custom harvesting operation or offering advice as a nutritionist or consultant, paying attention to the bottom line should be a critical part of your enterprise.

But business and employee management, especially in family operations, is often almost an afterthought, if it’s even thought of at all.

For too many involved in agriculture, the lifestyle or enjoyment of being in the outdoors or around animals overshadows the long-term view and careful insight and planning that make up a profitable business venture.

The idea of starting with a future goal in mind can give guidance and direction to the choices you make. For the animal producer, think about what kind of forage you’ll need to have in order to feed a properly balanced ration.

For the forage producer, think about who your target market is and the types of things they will be looking for. Finding answers to these and similar questions can help you determine things such as choice of crop to plant, the variety of seed to use, how much fertilizer to put down, how often to irrigate and when to harvest.

Obviously there are things we can’t always control, such as the weather. But if you do have an idea of where you want to be at the end of the season, even when Mother Nature throws you a surprise, you can make the best decision possible based on the hand you are dealt, and try to make the best of possibly less-than-ideal circumstances.

Several articles in this issue touch on this idea, but I’ll mention just a few examples. For producers wanting to explore options available for the export market, Brad Nelson offers some great tips.

Jeri Donnell from The Noble Foundation reminds all who want to make a profit about understanding their basic breakeven costs before pricing their hay.

For our new Progressive Cattleman readers, Rick Rasby from the University of Nebraska discusses testing your forage for use in beef cattle rations.

And some of my favorite articles are always our producer features. I always enjoy finding out how people run their operations and figure out things that work well for them. They may not always get it perfect, but they are learning and making adjustments as they go along.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my editorial, I believe the idea of “beginning with the end in mind” is also a concept that can be applied to life. I recently attended the funeral of a man that was one of our neighbors when I was in high school.

He was 96 years young when he passed away, and as I looked around the room at his friends and family and listened to them tell stories about the way he had touched their lives, it got me thinking about this principle.

I don’t know that he thought about what people would say at his funeral and used that to make decisions in his life, but I wonder what would happen if we all actually did that? What if we made choices today with consideration for the way we would want people to think of us in the end?

As we begin a new year, I challenge each of us (myself included) to think about where we would like to see ourselves at the end of 2011 and then make our actions during the coming months align with that goal, both in our business operations and in our personal lives.  FG