With the New Year upon us perhaps we should all make a resolution to be more disciplined in 2010 and beyond. In large part, the future of our farms and ranches depends on it. Discipline is truly a tough order to follow.

Self-discipline is the ultimate key to achieving any goal and realizing any dream whether it is losing weight, improving relationships, eliminating debt, building wealth or managing a business such as your ranch. The financial margin of error for agriculture for the immediate future is pretty slim. Survival will require self-discipline. To quote William Ward, “The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment.”

Let’s discuss areas of self-discipline and techniques that could be incorporated into the management of your operation.

We must first set realistic goals based on priorities and set forth the self-discipline to accomplish those goals. Make one set of short-term goals and priorities, and one set of long-term goals that don’t require much monetary input. Think ahead.

For example, do not wait until shipping day to fix that loading chute. Put it on the priority list and get-err done. Fix it permanently, not temporarily. After all, you’re in this business for the long haul! There is no down-time on self-disciplined operations, only off-time. These types of repairs can be done in the off-times when more pressing jobs are not overpowering.

Next, write these non-monetary goals and priorities down and post them in a conspicuous spot so you’re reminded daily of your commitment to your short- and long-term goals and priorities. Check them off as you accomplish these goals.

You’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment when you’re able to see the jobs that are checked off as done. Plus, this system will encourage you to follow through with your plan and help you remain self-disciplined.

Monetary goals are a little tougher. Again you need written short- and long-term goals and priorities for monetary purchases. Separate “needs” from “wants” and by all means put forth the self-discipline to only spend money on “needs.” A “want” is a $45,000, 1-ton, four-door, diesel flatbed pickup; a “need” is a reliable, low-cost form of ranch transportation capable of pulling a trailer.

Remain monetarily self-disciplined and keep your debt load to a minimum. This will require some concessions, sacrifices, prioritization and self-discipline on you and your family’s part. Don’t try to keep up with your neighbor because this may ruin you financially.

Two additional points:

  • Never forget the power of neighboring. Neighboring is a form of resource sharing.
  • Inform your banker of your short- and long-term plans. You will be amazed at your banker’s willingness to help if you have a written plan and he or she views you as a self-disciplined person.
You have to be ambitious and self-disciplined to make ranching work. Working hard is not enough. We need to work both hard and smart.
-- Ron Torell, University of Nevada Extension – torellr@unce.unr.edu