In the August issue I began a discussion on attributes of successful growers and how I observe their operations. That’s what’s so satisfying about what I do. I can get to the heart and soul of an operation and discover the great attributes of the top guns in production agriculture.

Attitude is the first chromosome I identify. Recognition and use of top interpersonal skills is the second. Now let’s look at that map further.

Third is the ability to see the big picture and assess problems and opportunities from a “30,000-ft. level.” Those who focus on issues and tasks that are urgent and important – dealing with a problem employee or addressing a customer complaint – are far more successful than those who spend time on issues and tasks that are urgent but not important, not urgent but important or not urgent and not important. Reading junk emails is not urgent and not important.

The next characteristic is planning. Those who have vision and mission statements along with goals, strategies and tactics realize that planning’s contribution to improved communication adds enough value to offset the time and cost invested.

The basic planning of establishing gross dollars per acre needed to cover all payments, expenses, living, depreciation and profit allows you to arrive at a marketing goal for the year and it makes farming easier and more fun.

Planning can often be too mechanical, however. Look at your decision-making process. We can all improve on our ability to make informed decisions that are well thought out as opposed to those that are made quickly with emotion rather than logic.

Here’s one good example of a top operator who was asked to join a growth model organization. It was impressive how he logically and unemotionally thought through the process, talking to many people and, more importantly, making his decision based on values not objectives.

Next, I’ve found those who have thirst for knowledge are not only more successful, but more fun to be around. They ask more questions than others. They learn to look at issues from the other person’s perspective. They understand there are many different ways to accomplish the same task.

For example, some farmers are adamant that ridge till is the best agronomic practice, or no-till or deep till. However, it depends on many environmental factors. But one thing that’s common is that those who are really successful have a thirst for knowledge and can drill down to the critical issues and manage them.

Farmers who network with other farmers from different parts of the country or world – and especially those with different crops and enterprises – have the unique ability to think outside the box because they’re in a different environment. Operators who frequent the same places and talk to the same people become stagnate.

Always look for new ways of getting new ideas. Danny Klinfelter’s TEPAP and APEX programs are some of the best idea incubators I have experienced. They’re like mini MBA programs for ag producers.

Lastly, see problems and challenges as growth opportunities rather than issues that require more Maalox. Perspective is the key to making wise decisions.

September 2010