I attended a business seminar recently for people who manage or own service- or sales-based businesses. As one speaker listed his “Rules to Manage By,” I found applications for myself and other dairy producers.

Following these rules can help enhance your skills as a manager. Here is my condensed version, with interpretation for the dairy industry.

  • “About right” now is better than “exactly wrong” later. Some operations are so fixated on keeping up with their neighbors that they fail to see their own limitations. It’s better to be above-average 100 percent of the time than being perfect 50 percent of the time and not-so-perfect the rest of the time. Focus on your abilities and strive to improve your operation with education and professional advice. Don’t chase other people’s dreams.
  • Hire smart rather than manage tough. Each of us has been guilty of hiring a “warm body” rather than waiting to hire the right person suited to the job. Having the wrong person on farm can lead to stress, decreased morale, and financial loss. It requires you to “manage tough,” and that takes a lot of time and energy that could be better used elsewhere.
  • Hire for attitude, train for skills. Attitude is everything. Motivated people are eager to learn and perform tasks at the required level. Training is the responsibility of management, and when motivated employees are placed in an environment that’s conducive to learning, you end up with a productive and profitable work force.
  • “I will” beats “IQ” every time. Don’t confuse brightness with judgment. A person who works hard, follows the protocols, motivates others, has a positive attitude, and is loyal to the business is the type of person you want. Just being smart does not pay the bills.
  • Do the “right thing” rather than many “things right.” Oftentimes, dairy owners are so busy working that they fail to see the big picture. Perhaps that effort is not really contributing as much as they think it is to their financial or personal goals. Seek a professional analysis of your operation and plan a course of action to meet your goals.
  • Beware of promoting a successful task-achiever to manager. People who are good technicians generally do not make good managers. Technical people are good at managing themselves and completing the task at hand. Being a good manager requires investigational, organizational and motivational skills.
  • A little success can create a lot of overhead. Be careful not to go on a spending spree whenever the milk price goes up or milk production increases. A few hundred dollars more in payments each month may not seem significant in the good times, but it can be difficult to cash-flow when milk prices drop. The dairy industry is more volatile than ever before, and we need to manage our cost-of-production with these cycles in mind.
  • The boss is responsible for momentum. How fast are you moving and who is following? Are you leading your business to prosperity? A dairy operation moves forward only as fast as management’s ability or desire to move. Take time to measure your momentum.

If you need help in achieving these objectives, call on a professional adviser. He can help you chart a more productive future for your dairy business.

Paul Johnson is a veterinarian and dairy producer in Climax, Ga.