“It’s time to start thinking like a CEO,” says Robert Milligan, senior consultant for Dairy Strategies LLC. “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder. As we move up, leadership becomes more important than management. Failure to achieve a common vision results in irresolvable differences in decision making. Every decision then becomes a disagreement over the vision. The future of the farm business needs to be someone’s top priority.”

External factors add particular challenges to producers when developing a strategy and a vision for their operations.

“Turbulence and uncertainty in a slow general economy, along with the worst price-cost squeeze in animal agriculture history, make things incredibly volatile. The farm and the industry contain great opportunities but also great hazards,” he says.

Every farm must have a strategy, Milligan stresses, which includes a vision for growth in the business. This can either be through expansion, entering into the value-added market or diversifying to enter new avenues for competencies and skills.

While offering many tips and tricks for becoming a better leader and CEO, Milligan says the agricultural culture helps define our business values.

“We are all products of, and proud of, our agricultural legacy. However, in turbulent times, we must broaden our perspectives and be proactive in viewing change as an opportunity for growth. A leader must learn to value family collaboration on decisions. Farming is more than just a way of life; it’s a family business.”

Whether it’s becoming a more effective manager, transitioning to the role of CEO, encouraging the next generation to get involved on the ranch or trying to implement new strategies and a clearer vision for the operation, Milligan recommends producers focus on what is important, be proactive, show great leadership and instill in family members a desire to win and achieve goals that align with the vision of the ranch.

Does your ranch have a vision for the future? Are all family members on the same page? What are your goals for 2012 and beyond?