The Top Producer Conference in Chicago recently allowed me to be with a panel of progressive, forward-thinking, but well grounded agricultural producers. These producers operated a wide range of businesses, from custom hiring over 80,000 acres to being CEOs of diversified farm and non-farm businesses. I was asked to summarize what I heard from the panel participants. Here are a few of the excerpts.
Each producer was very aware of the agricultural industry and business in general from a global context. They maintained a vision of where they wanted the business to go despite realities, whether it was weather, economics or competition that tested their focus.
The producers on the panel all knew their cost of operations, but at varying degrees. One producer, a former banker, could quote his returns to the second decimal while others checked on it once or twice a year. The accountant and lender were major team players in their business plans.
They drove their business models through people. Whether it was family members, employees, suppliers, market contacts or serving on agricultural leadership positions, they were keen of getting the right people on the team.
These producers were constantly networking with other positive, like-minded business persons inside and outside the industry. They appeared to be hungry for education and experiences.
Finally, and most importantly, they had a special balance and harmony between business and family. Each expressed in their own little ways that the family side of their lives was important.
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Editors' note: Dave Kohl, The Corn and Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups.
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