Keep client goals in mind

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Editor's note: The following Practice Builder was contributed by Merrill May, dairy nutritionist from Amarillo, Texas.

I used to live in the Northeast where I worked with several different styles of dairy operations: large farms where the owners had a management role and many employees, medium-sized operations where the owners had just a few employees, and smaller dairies where family members did all or most of the work themselves.

Early in my career, one of the dairies I worked with was a husband-and-wife team with one employee. The husband and wife worked long hours and never had any time off. We eventually became good friends, and I decided I needed to help them get some more time off, so I offered suggestions such as custom heifer-growers, custom forage-choppers, even a relief milker who could milk while they took a vacation. However, they never seriously considered any of these options. You see, this dairy took a lot of pride in the fact that they were extremely self-sufficient. Eventually, I realized my suggestions weren’t helping them with their business plan, so I tried to focus on opportunities that would help them. We went to a single-group TMR to help minimize mixing time and simplified their heifer diets; we scheduled team meetings during low times, and we did a lot more planning with their forage program so that we knew what feed we would be going to and when the changes would be occurring.

Based on these types of experiences, I try to remember that many of my clients have different goals for their businesses, so I need to spend a lot of time trying to understand what those may be.
One of the quickest ways to lose rapport with clients is to push them in directions they don't want to go with their business and/or fail to help them accomplish their goals. It's great to form lasting friendships with some of your clients, but when we are working together, I need to treat them as a client first. Most people tend to take advantage of their friends in various ways, and this is counterproductive to supporting a client to the best of your ability.

Also, I look for opportunities to meet clients outside of their dairy, such as at industry meetings or seminars, because it provides an opportunity to interact on a different level.

But, most of all, I always keep in mind that it's not my dairy, it's theirs. I'm responsible for helping them achieve the goals that they have for their business, not the goals that I have for their business.

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