When leading a farm operation, you’re keeping any number of things in mind at any given moment. You’re keeping track of the markets, managing the farm’s finances, managing employees, handling relationships with landlords, dealing with suppliers. As the leader, you’re responsible for the success of the operation, and you know it.
It’s a big task. Luckily, today’s farm leaders are up for it. You’re rising to meet the challenges thrown at you by the economic downturn in ag. You’re thinking of creative solutions to old problems, and maybe solving some new problems or challenges you’ve never dealt with before. You’re proving just how resilient the people of agriculture are.
A lonely road
But there can be doubts and difficulties along the way, too. Have you ever heard the saying, ‘it’s lonely at the top’? It’s common for the leader of any group – think corporate CEOs, presidents of nations, head pastors – to find himself or herself feeling alone in a way they’ve never experienced before.
They’re always aware that there are big decisions on their shoulders – and that others might not understand the implications of these decisions in the same way. There might not be very many others around them who understand what it feels like to carry the weight of those decisions.
It’s no different in a farm business. The farm leader – regardless of the farm’s size – carries the weight of major financial decisions, business direction, marketing decisions, choices around land opportunities, major purchases – you name it, the leader holds ultimate responsibility. They may delegate authority in some areas to others, but know it’s ultimately theirs in the end: the buck stops with them.
Seek a coach
It can be lonely at the top of a farm operation – not to mention stressful. So what’s a farm leader to do? Finding a trusted advisor to confide in can be like a lifeline. This could be someone inside or outside of your operation. They might help you with things like providing a different perspective on a land purchase or giving guidance as you create plans to make your farm what you want it to be.
They need to understand your situation as a farm leader and ‘get’ that it can be lonely at the top. You’re not asking them to take the reins of your operation – those stay firmly in your hands. They come alongside of you and provide support, perspective and advice. They can also act as a ‘coach’ of sorts – understanding your goals for your operation and helping you stay on track and accountable as you work to reach them.
You could read, learn and take in all the farm business advice and knowledge that’s out there, but without implementing it, it’s all for nothing. Working with a coach or trusted advisor can help you stay accountable to your vision and plan for your operation.
Consider seeking a coach or trusted advisor as you begin planning for 2017. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you think about what may be most helpful to you.
1. Is there currently anyone I talk with when I’m thinking through a major decision for my operation?
2. Has it been helpful to me to discuss my thoughts with someone I trust and listen to their perspective as I’m making decisions?
3. What sorts of perspectives would I find most helpful? In what areas of my farm business? In what types of decisions I need to make?
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.