Agriculture’s financial margin of error for the immediate future is pretty slim. Survival will require self-discipline, which is the ultimate key to achieving any goal. To quote William Ward, “The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment.” Here are a few areas of self-discipline and techniques that could be incorporated into the management of your operation.

  • 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, don’t wait until shipping day to fix that loading chute. Put it on the priority list and “get ’er done.” What’s more, fix it permanently, not temporarily. After all, you’re in this business for the long haul. Such repairs can be done in the off times when more pressing jobs are not overpowering.
    Write these non-monetary goals and priorities down, then post them in a conspicuous spot so you’re reminded every day of your commitment to your short- and long-term goals and priorities. Check them off as you accomplish them to achieve a real sense of accomplishment. 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 discipline yourself 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 concessions, sacrifices, prioritization and self-discipline on you and your family’s part. Don’t try to keep up with your neighbor; it will ruin you financially.
  • Two additional points: First, never forget the power of neighboring, which is a form of resource sharing. Second, inform your banker of your short- and long-term plans. You’ll be amazed at your banker’s willingness to help if you have a written plan and they view you as a self-disciplined person.
Today, working hard is not enough; you also must work smart. We all need to resolve to be more disciplined in 2009 and beyond; in large part, the future of our farms and ranches depends on it.
-- Ron Torell, University of Nevada Extension livestock specialist