Nearly 20 years ago, I was asked to give a talk to several groups about “10 ideas or practices from which our ranch has benefited the most in the last five years.”
I made the list of 10 and gave the talks, which seemed to be well received. Since then I have reviewed the talk on several occasions. I soon consolidated the list to five and remain satisfied that they are essential to good success and, when thought of broadly, cover everything a manager needs to consider to have excellent results.
- A lifelong approach to management needs to be both integrative and holistic.
- We must strive for continuous improvement of the key resources. On most ranches these will be land, livestock, and people; but could expand to include wildlife or other resources.
- We must assemble and use good analysis and decision-making tools.
- We must wage war on cost.
- We must place an emphasis on marketing.
Over time in this column, I will address each one of the “essentials” in the context of problems and opportunities that we may face. Today, I want to focus on the first – our approach to management should be both integrative and holistic.
In my career-long attempt to be integrative, I have gathered concepts from many people. My desk, my files and my mind have been the repositories of ideas, practices, information, etc., that have come in bits and pieces. In my mind this is integration – bringing to one place or one “whole” the many things I have tried to see, understand, learn and use as a decision maker.
The sources of these ideas are many. It bothers me not to give adequate credit to my many mentors and others from whom I have gleaned so many ideas. I have often said that I don’t have many original ideas, but I may package a group of ideas differently than anyone else.
Borrow ideas from industry leaders
Researchers, professors, neighboring ranchers, friends in the industry and co-workers have all provided most of the ideas that I have used in my years as a manager of ranching operations. If it appears that I have borrowed from someone else, you’re right. I have. My suggestion to you is that you develop the habit of borrowing ideas and observing the practices of successful people.
Integration will never be complete. It’s a lifelong habit. But, the time comes to develop strategies and make very important decisions that will determine the future of our business and even our lives. When we get in decision-making mode, we must be holistic in our approach. This addresses the unintended consequences or unforeseen results of our decisions.
In our businesses, we and all the people around us would like to be profitable and to truly enjoy our work and our lives. All too often, we look at opportunities in a linear context where we only see the primary outcome of adding, eliminating or modifying the use of an input or concept. It’s imperative that we try our best to envision what else may happen – good and bad – as a result of the new practice.
A method that I have found to be very effective in the evaluation of new ideas or proposed changes to our current methods, especially strategic changes, is to bring our entire team together. We first look for all the good that could happen and attach financial estimates to those good things. We then look to the bad. I have to admit that most new ideas are eliminated, but the few good ones we keep and use are more than worth all the effort.
Burke Teichert, consultant and speaker on strategic planning for ranches, is the retired vice president and general manager of Ag Reserves Inc. (more commonly known as Deseret), where he was manager of seven ranches in seven different areas. He lives in Orem, UT, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.