Tightening Up

Tightening Up from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

A couple of weeks ago I was on a combine ride with a grower, and we got to talking about the future as it sits, I’m not going to lie when I say, that I have sat through brighter cab conversations. Somewhere in the middle, he said something to me that stuck “You, need to help me make decisions that don’t cost me yield above all else,” that simple statement is contrary to what we hear today about tightening our belts and cutting costs. There are indeed costs that need to be cut, but most of those are hidden costs that arise out of chaos or missing details. In this article I’m going to talk about a different kind of tightening up, the tightening up of our tactical plan to help you get to where you want to go.

I believe that there are four things we need to focus on to protect you from the chaos of a growing season and to keep you away from incurring those hidden costs. Improvement in any of these four things will help your operation, mastery of these four things is the game changer. No, it’s not going to be easy. Yes, it will take a higher level of trust, but what is on the other side is pretty cool. The four things are Planning, Execution, Evaluation and Communication; I realize you are doing some or most of these already, but I’m asking you to do them with more detail, more precision, and with more frequency.

It all starts with planning, and that planning is going to span time and levels of your operation. It’s time to sit down and talk about 5-year goals for your operation and what the roadmap looks like to get there. This is the enterprise level of planning, and these goals should span from personal, financial and operational. Once we set that direction we can start making quick decisions that are not detrimental to the long-term vision of your operation. Then we begin to prioritize fields by ROI potential which will take into account the land cost of that ground combined with the yield potential of the field. The lower the land cost and the higher yield potential, the more aggressive we can be to capture more of that ROI for you. Then at an individual field, we will look at the zones in the field and decide what to do based on the probability of return on those acres. There’s no solution that fits every acre, the decision framework stays the same, but the execution plans may be different.

Our ability to Execute the plan with precision is critical, making sure we get all the work steps done and getting them done right the first time is the best way ensure those hidden costs don’t creep up on us. A great example is spring herbicide applications, taking the time to check fields for weeds and using the best chemistry options may cost a bit more upfront but will save a headache and a more expensive treatment down the road. Additionally making sure our prescriptions load correctly and work before you head to the field and making sure that we keep the right hybrids on the right acres raises our probability of increasing your profitability. Untitled-2

Next, we are going to have to be able to accurately Evaluate the situation and make changes to the plan that reflect changes in potential yield, your marketing position, and the weather. This constant cycle is going to help sharpen our situation awareness and take advantage of the opportunities that the growing season will give us. Lastly, we are going to have to become more efficient at communication and to do that we need to meet more regularly, communicate with purpose, and remain open to new ideas. Fellow Trusted Advisors, make the time to meet face to face with the grower and take the time to answer questions, and answer even if it is “I don’t know.”  Farmers, surround yourself with a team that has the long term for your operation in mind.

These things are not going to be easy to accomplish, but are critical for thriving through this reset of the economy. Now is not the time to be bold and aggressive, but make sure that aggression is targeted and well thought out. The only way we can do that is by having a solid plan going in, keeping good situational awareness, communicating efficiently and executing with absolute precision. Times like these are where relationships are tested, hardened and made to last the long haul, so let’s get to it.