From Communication to Economics, Being a Lifelong Student is Key!
At the beginning of February my family and I were able to travel to Spokane where my husband and I attended the Young and Beginning Producers Conference put on by Northwest Farm Credit Services. It was a two day conference with a variety of speakers geared towards education on issues especially relevant to producers who had been in the ag business 10 years or less.
We took the train and got to Spokane a bit early! The girls did pretty well on the train and it sure was better than trying to drive there!
I learned so much and I've found that I retain what I learn if I share it with someone! I hope you don't mind if I share it with you?!
There was quite a group of us! 59 producers attended. There was also quite a variety of businesses from an Alaska-based fishing company, a winery, dairies, to people just starting out farming with 25 acres.
Let me tell you, there were a lot of ball caps, button-up shirts, jeans and work boots in that room! ? It was wonderful to be in the company of folks in similar lines of work. Conversation flowed easily because we had such a big part of our lives in common.
The organizers of the conference worked hard to make sure that there was time to mingle, discuss the things that we were learning and to learn from each other. It was a wonderful and integral piece of the conference. There isn't a better way to bring farmer's together to visit than by offering coffee and food! The food was superb! I don't usually take a picture of my plate, but the food was so good, I couldn't help myself! ?
Subjects that were presented on were Personality and Communication Styles, Succession Planning, Online Security, Economics/Global Trends in Ag and Personal Finance! In today's post, I want to give an overview of each subject and then I will follow up with 3 more detailed posts on Personality/Communication Style, Succession Planning, and Personal Finance!
Personality and Communication Style
Before we even got to the conference we were asked to complete a personality/communication style questionnaire. I thought this was kind of an odd thing to be asked to complete for a conference, but I soon found out it wasn't. I realized that the results from the questionnaire I took described me to a T. It was very insightful and I can see how having this information could help employers, employees and even farm couples work together. You can read a more comprehensive discussion on this subject here!
Kevin Spafford, presented on succession planning. Did you know that a recent study showed that US small businesses are the third largest economy in the world? Another study showed that small business owners aren't confident in addressing the issues on their own even though they feel the need to protect their businesses and families Another statistic shared was that when transferring the family agricultural business from the first generation to the second-generation, there is a failure rate of 70%. When transferring it from the second to the third generation there was a 90% failure rate. And from the third to the fourth generation a 96% failure rate. Those statistics are so shocking and very saddening. Succession planning needs to be talked about more openly and considered from the beginning! You can read a more comprehensive discussion on this subject here!
Another session was devoted to online security and was presented by Mike Levin. He encouraged us to never do anything important on free Wi-Fi, to change passwords frequently and not to use a word in the dictionary for a password. He also said that it was important to use different passwords for different accounts and to never write your whole password down. He recommended an app called “1password” that has encrypted protection with their login, where you can safely store your passwords for different accounts. Websites with "two factor authenticity” are the safest. This is where you have to provide two different forms of information to access the account. For example you would use your password for the first step and the Second step might be a security question or a code that is sent to you via text or phone call. I have run into this “two factor authenticity” with a couple of sites that I visit. It does take longer to get to your account but not that much longer. He also spoke of the importance of owning a shredder, not posting on Facebook when you are going to be away from home and keeping the malware protection up-to-date on your home computer.
Economics and Mega Global Trends in Ag
Dr. David Kohl from Virginia Tech, presented on this subject. What a character and knowledgeable man he is! I've never been more interested in economics! I have to admit that a lot of the things he talked about were well beyond my understanding. But, I'll do my best to share some of it. He stated that economics is really about human behavior. He talked of "super cycles", "economic resets", and how the economies of countries including Europe, China, Japan, Asia and other countries such as Russia, Brazil and even Argentina played into the economics that affect our agricultural businesses. He said he could tell where the trends were headed after watching and visiting with airport shoe shiners and over the road truck driver's. He also spoke of the millennial generation, how it exceeds the baby boomers in size, and how they will be on the forefront of consumer social and political trends. They will be 75% of the workforce by 2025. He stated that it is important for them to receive feedback and recognition. It is also important to them to achieve a balance between work and lifestyle. Even though they can be a challenge to work with from an employer's standpoint, if you can find millennial's that have "old time” work habits paired with their knowledge of innovation/technology, they will be unstoppable. Personally Dr. Kohl feels that they may take longer to mature but will be excellent employees. This was encouraging to hear as the comments that I have seen people make about the millennial generation are not usually positive ones. Dr. Kohl also stated that there was definitely a place for organic and traditional farming techniques and that determining which farming technique you used should be determined by what your specific market wants. He also gave 15 strategies for how to exploit volatility. Some of those included focusing on keeping 10-20% of current assets in cash, "better is better" before "bigger is better", recognizing opportunities, and recognizing and being willing to adapt, transition and evolve. Another list that he offered was the 10 best management practices for producers. Some of these included investing in productive assets, being lifelong learners, having a good set of the mentors, and balancing between head/heart or numbers versus passion.
He offered 10 quotes for our current economic times. "Good times don't last forever neither do bad times." “If it grows too fast, then it's a weed". "It is difficult to take a cat drinking cream and switch it to skim milk". “success in business is about sweating the small stuff". “The best opportunities come along in challenging times". "The best crop you will ever raise will be your children, grandchildren and other young people.”
The last session was led by Dr. Alex White from Virginia Tech who presented on personal finance. He spoke about managing money wisely, setting up a budget, having a business plan and setting goals for not only your business but your personal finances. He really emphasized that the fortune is in the details. He spoke about credit cards and how that they can be a powerful tool when used wisely, how important it was to increase your credit score and check your credit history, and the importance of having insurance. I will be sharing more about this presentation in another post, because I realized that we needed to take action in this area. Maybe you're like me and have been avoiding taking a good hard look at your finances. Dr. Alex had some great steps to put into action and I can't wait to share them with you!
This producer's conference covered so many issues that are important to the day-to-day life and business of producers. In 2 days we were given so much insight and information that will help us succeed down the road. I would highly recommend this conference to any young and beginning producers. It was well worth the time. Northwest Farm Credit Services did a great job in assisting producers in getting there by assisting with travel costs and making sure that meals were taking care of. That made it so much easier for us to attend.
If you work with Northwest Farm credit services and you have been in business for less than 10 years, consider talking to your agent about going to this conference. You'll be glad you did.
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