Question 4: How did your business get started? And lessons learned.
I started my stocker/feeding operation from scratch, when I was 21. I started with $6,000, and bought 15 head of fly weight heifers. They were mostly the junk no one else wanted. Over the years it grew from there, and in less than ten years became big enough I no longer had time for an off the farm job.
That previous paragraph just busted a huge myth, and destroyed many excuses.
I had to learn a great many things along the way to be successful. I am grateful every day for the people that came into my life and taught me the things I needed to know. Contrary to popular belief we do not inherently know the correct things.
I wanted to be the best, and one thing I learned from Rodeo was that if you want to be the best you had to study the best. That’s what I did. I have traveled around the country to learn the cattle biz from the best. I’ll give you a hint on how to find them, they are not in the universities.
It is always important to earn money. When you start young and broke there seems to be more of an urgency to succeed. I went to a marketing school, and it all just made sense. The skills I learned there changed my life, and the future for my family.
I learned stockmanship skills from the master. This helped eliminate problems, and the need for extra labor.
I had to learn to structure and manage a business. This topic right here is why most production agriculture operations fail, or are run as failures. I feel it is extremely important to point out, that most of the ag bloggers I have read are clueless on this topic and it is evident in their writing. The only reason I bring this up is so people may learn to recognize it and not accept any of their points as truth. I fear their writing sets a very dangerous precedent for young people getting into agriculture.
One of the hardest things I’ve faced in my business was making the leap to being a full time cattleman. My operation had to pay my salary, groceries, all the different kinds of insurance I buy, equipment purchases, feed, rents, and the list goes on. This is why marketing skill and business structure are so important. Doing this properly eliminates much stress. It also eliminates the desire to assign blame and come up with creative excuses for when you fail, and don’t want to take responsibility for it.
You have heard knowledge pays the best interest. Thing is very few actually heed that advice. More and more people rely on technology, that in reality is letting them down without them knowing it. I am talking about learning old school skills. By learning these I have been able to eliminate problems, and drastically cut overheads. What is old is new again
Another big lesson I’ve learned is to understand ecology. The more I learn about nature the more I’ve change my operation to work with it. Sounds simple, I know, but so many in production ag spend most of their time and money trying to dominate nature. You can read about our quest to dominate nature every day. It’s in the research papers, blogs, and magazines. It is so engrained in us we do not even realize it.
Who you marry will have a huge impact on your success. So will how you behave in that marriage.
Critical thinking, decision making, and problem solving skills are a must. I should’ve tied this in better with business management. Sometimes the most important thing is not knowing what to do, but knowing what not to do.
I also want to point out the reason most generational operations fail is because the old man held onto all the power, and never included the kid in the decision making process. This is why you see so many people who finally get to take over the farm, when in their 40’s or 50’s and they can’t do it. They just lock up.
Last points, communication and listening skills are important, but most people do not have them so you will constantly have to double check. Also people like to play dumb, and are dishonest, so trust no one, again double check.