Six or seven years ago I was asked to be part of an interview that included several other producers from around the country. The topic was focused on young producers and what our competitive advantage was due the region we each lived in.
It was mostly they typical stuff you’d expect. One guy mentioned he had a longer growing season and could easily double crop. The gal from the Flint Hills had access to some of the best grass on the planet. Pasture rent is cheap in Kentucky. One lived where urban sprawl was taking over but she was using that to sell direct to the consumer, giving her a huge profit margin.
When it came my turn I think the interviewer expected me to mention things like, Nebraska having a lot of crop ground and raising mountains of corn for feed. The ethanol industry was really gaining momentum here, and at the time they had some difficulty getting rid of distillers grain, making it a bargain. We have strong cash markets here, and we have packers.
I skipped over all of these and said my competitive advantage is my ability to learn faster and adapt faster than my neighbor. She did not like this response. I guess it didn’t fit her theme. She tried pointing out to me all the things mentioned in the previous paragraph. I dismissed them, and stuck with what I had said.
The interview was in both print media and online. My part was left out.
Today I was sorting some cattle and for some strange reason I recalled a quote I read in the Pharo Cattle Co. weekly newsletter. “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” ~ W. Edwards Deming. While I was thinking of that, for some reason I remembered the interview from years ago.
While I continued sorting cattle these things were rolling around in the back of my mind. All the reasons she listed off are definitely advantageous to those of us in Nebraska. While these things have certainly helped grow the cattle biz here, they do not make us immune from failure though. Some people still go broke. Change is not necessary, survival is not mandatory
I spoke wrong during that interview. Most people that I know that went broke have 4 year degrees. Some got good really good grades. I did not. I have enjoyed success in the cattle biz. They did not. It’s going to be difficult to argue who is smarter. What I should have said my sustainable competitive advantage is, is my willingness to learn and adapt faster than my neighbor. We all have the ability, few have the willingness.