Farmers, Get Ready For 2019

Are you ready for what 2019 will bring? ( Allison Fulton )

By this time of year the crops are in (hopefully), Thanksgiving plans are made and you’re ready to settle in for a long winter. It’s the perfect time, if you haven’t done it already, to think ahead to what you want to accomplish in 2019. Here are five steps to putting together a plan for 2019.

1. Involve the right people. Odds are you aren’t the only one with a say in the business or impacted by its success. Make sure you include people like spouses, managers and other key employ-ees in the planning process. Involving more people has additional benefits.

“If your key people, your managers aid in the development of your plan, they’ll be more invested in the plan,” says Louis Mosca, vice president and CEO of American Management Services Inc.

2. Determine what you want to accomplish. Sit down with your team and talk about what you want to accomplish over the next 12 to 15 months. It could be practical elements, like improving pregnancy rates or lower-ing somatic cell counts. It could involve an investment, like renovating a parlor or incorporating activity monitoring. Or it could be out of the box, like starting your own brand of cheese.

Think about how changes in input costs will affect your business. “Create a flexible plan to account for if these changes happen,” Mosca says.

If at all possible, try to think outside of budgetary constraints for at least some of what you want to accomplish. Let yourself think outside the budget box and look toward stretch goals.

“Developing a strategy should be exciting: strategy making is about creating a future for your organization, and engaging your people in that process,” says Tony Golsby-Smith, the founder and CEO of 2nd Road, a training and consulting firm. “But all too often, the budget-planning monster weighs an organization down with endless inputs and bureaucracy and rules.”

3. Follow a timeline. Whatever your goals, write them down. According to Golsby-Smith, the plan should be separated into strategy and budget areas. The strategy area should focus on goals and ambitions for the future. “This system has longer term horizons,” Golsby-Smith says. The budgeting system, he says, should be built around key performance indicators with shorter timeframes.

Include a timeline for implementing your ideas. Then revise the plan.

“Reflect on it, make revisions, then have your CPA or financial advisor take a peak at your plan and check for reasonableness,” says Mosca. “Just remember not to complicate your plan.”

4. Align resources and strategy. Once your plan is developed with what you want to accomplish and the timeline for getting it done, make sure you have the capital resources to move forward. “Hit the ground running and ready to go on January 1,” says Mosca.

5. Create a scorecard. A plan does no good if it isn’t followed, and one way to make sure things are happening on schedule is to keep track. Mosca says to break your business plan down into goals and milestones for each area of your business.

“If issues begin to arise, you can react much faster by knowing exactly what’s happening and what part of the business it’s affecting,” Mosca says.

In addition to the scorecard, Golsby-Smith recommends revisiting the plan every quarter with the team that helped put it together. He suggests doing this in an offsite meeting that takes people away from the daily grind of the business. Ask these questions:

  • What have we accomplished thus far?
  • Are we on track for where we want to be?
  • What changes do we need to make?
  • Has our vision for the future of the business changed?

2018 has been a rough year for dairy producers, and 2019 is not shaping up to be a whole lot better. Take time at the end of the year to think about the mistakes and victories from the year and apply them to your plan.

“Don’t dwell on mistakes,” says Mosca. “It’s how you perform versus your plan, not versus last year.”