Business lessons learned on the farm

Jim Blasingame

Growing up on a farm provided many valuable lessons that have transferred beautifully to my life in the non-farming marketplace. Here are three of those timeless and universal lessons.

The China Egg

Seeing “Farm-fresh eggs” on a breakfast menu takes me back to when that was a daily reality. But farmers know that hens don’t lay eggs for our breakfast. Consequently, they harvest the fresh eggs each day, and leave a China egg in each nest, which is sufficient to prevent the hens from abandoning their nests and continue production.  

There are China eggs in business, too. They’re the prospects you keep calling on who never buy anything. Since you’re smarter than a chicken, don’t spend time and resources sitting on China eggs.

On the farm or in business, China eggs never hatch. 

Ten Pigs To The Litter

Deciding to raise feeder pigs, a young farmer based his financial projections on two well-known facts: 

1. A sow can give birth to a litter of 10 piglets, or more.

2. It is possible for a sow to deliver three litters in one year.

Using these two as assumptions, plus the number of his sows and the market price of pigs, he eagerly forecasted potential revenue.  The product of this equation gave him visions of being in Hog Heaven. But the young farmer would soon become acquainted with two other facts: assumptions are often wrong, and projections are always wrong.

Forecasting is an important business planning tool, but the road to bankruptcy is paved with the equity of those who did too much multiplying and not enough discounting.    

Plan for success, but beware the folly of forecasting “10 pigs-to-the-litter.”

Half of your herd

A young cattleman was in the process of buying his first bull. Inspecting the offerings at a sale, the lad struck up a conversation with an elderly gent. 

“Got my eye on that one right there. He shouldn’t go for too much,” the whippersnapper said, trying in vain to sound smarter than he was.

With great gentleness, the old man responded with, “A good bull is 50% of your herd.”  

When the greenhorn nodded, as if he already knew that, this Yoda-in-overalls hit the young pup with the other half of his maxim: “But a bad bull is 100% of your herd.”

If you’re in the delivery business, maintain a good fleet even if you have to eat bologna. If customers depend on your technology, make sure you have the best gear available, even if you have to drive an old car. 

Your small business will always have greater needs than resources. The challenge is to effectively and strategically manage those two parameters. 

Good tools are 50% of your business; bad tools are 100%.

Write this on a rock.... 

City folk shouldn’t look down their noses at their country cousins.  Before there were cities, farmers were learning and sharing many important lessons for life and business.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.


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