Earlier this fall, we had a team of European producers visit the farm on a fact-finding mission to learn more about farming in Canada. Of course, we welcomed the opportunity to host Tammo Gläser and his delegation. The farmers were from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and they were keen to learn about our crops, farming methods and business practices, particularly around finance.
I think they learned a lot by visiting us and a few other farms across the Prairies, but one piece of advice we shared completely blew them away. We told them to grow the farm, we don’t immediately buy new equipment and instead, we focus on adding team members and running longer/more shifts. Once we have the team in place, then we can responsibly take on more acres.
It’s about managing human resources effectively instead of buying new equipment. Tammo shared with me that this was something they’d never considered before – it completely changed their perspective, in a good way, since equipment costs are one of the largest expenses on a farm.
We’ve also had quite a few of these similar growth moments over the years – many have come from conversations with bosses, mentors, business coaches, and sometimes complete strangers.
Let’s continue exploring some of these concepts that have had a profound impact on our business model at HGV.
If you treat your farm like a business, it can be a great way of life. If you treat your farm like a way of life, it can be a really bad business.
This saying I first heard from my friend Gerrid Gust – it’s foundational to our business and it’s one you will often hear me repeat when speaking to a crowd. It always makes people stop and think. From the moment we set up our management structure, with an Advisory Board, it was decided that we would run the farm like a business. Even though it’s a family farm, emotions are not part of the decision-making matrix. Yes, it can be difficult at times but, at the end of the day, we run the farm so it can sustain itself financially, so we have something to pass on to the younger generation.
To Get the Future You Want, Create It
We love this quote from Henry Ford – ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.’
“It has stuck with me over the years as I have witnessed our farm going to the bank and giving them a list of what we want. In contrast, I’ve seen other farms ask the bank for what they can get. We are very clear in our goals and the strategy of how we want to get there – this is how we now do business. If you never ask, you will never get it.” – Evan
Management’s job isn’t to be a boulder, it’s to remove them
This is in line with the Bring A Shovel saying we talked about in our previous blog, but this one really stresses a manager’s role as a problem-solver.
“I had a problem employee tell me one time, ‘It’s easier to work with people than against them,’ and it stuck with me. From the janitor to the CEO, all employees have issues that cause them stress during their working day. A good manager doesn’t minimize these issues because they aren’t important to them, they help the employees overcome these stresses.” – Jeff
Don’t sweat the small stuff; focus on the big picture
“When I was in the grain business we had a short crop one year so, naturally, my first reaction was to cut expenses. I drew up an elaborate plan to cut expenses which included laying off staff, many of whom were loyal and dedicated employees. After reviewing my plan, my supervisor looked at me and said that maybe I needed to worry more about generating more revenue and less about cutting a few pennies here and there. Expenses are on the rise in primary Ag, how do we produce more, how do we market better?” – Jeff
This one is pretty self-explanatory but it is a game changer when you begin to think about everything through the lens of building relationships – with team members, employees, neighbors, vendors, etc. Finding mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved is one of our core values and we do live it. By building trust, encouraging collaboration and reducing conflicts, this simple adage, time and time again, has allowed us to grow and further the business.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these concepts and stories – we repeat them so often around the farm they’ve become ingrained in our subconscious. Every once in a while it’s good to reflect and share with others. Just as Tammo showed us, we can all learn from one another.