Montana Farmers and Ranchers Peer Group?
Running a business is a lonely position to be in. In my previous industry of Printing/Marketing one of the best things I ever did was find a Peer group of like minded CEO’s. Mind you that the Printing and Marketing Industry does not like to share secrets to competitors. The industry is almost as bad as Montana farmers and ranchers in that respect! Almost. Peer groups were separated a number of ways so that we weren’t in competition with anyone in our group. You can separate geographically, raising different crops or breed of animals, size of acreage, etc…
A good group is one that is 4-5 in size that are committed to improving their business, ready to help others improve theirs and open minded to having their ways and business practices questioned. We found size of company did not matter. Some of the smaller operators were better at squeezing every dollar better than us big guys. We were all willing to be challenged and held accountable to every one in the group. We met two times a year in person and talked individually or in small conference calls when an issue arose that someone needed help or advice. Amount of time commitment was actually not significant but the rewards were and it paid back the dollar investment over and over. Three years into the group we calculated between the five of us that we had saved over a half million dollars aggregate as a group and had helped transform a couple of guys businesses that grew very quickly while the others cheered them on. We made them buy the first round a couple of times to pay us back.
Some of you are thinking but our businesses are not alike! Different crops, different breeds, different moisture and climates. I thought the same thing just in a different industry. What we found is we were all dealing with some of the same issues. Insurance, personnel, health insurance, financing, dealing with bankers, motivating employees, holding employees and managers accountable, equipment, tax matters, leadership, succession planning, estate planning, account receivable and account payable strategies. I think you can understand where I’m coming from. What we found is if you got several reasonably smart people in the room that were all dealing with many of the same issues someone was always doing better than the others and could advise the others on how to improve. It was incredibly powerful.
We don’t improve if we don’t experiment and take chances. In today’s world, advancements are happening so quickly that those that have more information and sources of information can experiment and make profitable changes quickly. This magnifies your exposure to others that have taken chances. You get to tap into others failures and successes and immediately go to the head of the class. As long as you aren’t in a competing market it gives you a very strong competitive advantage over others in your market. Can you then leverage that if you are faced with possibilities of expanding and lowering your costs knowing that your yield is 20% higher based on this new knowledge? Information is king and improving your cost structure and having several people to run what ifs by is a wealth making device. It allowed me to retire at 48. Too bad I had to over manage the spoon drawer to where my wife said I had to go get a job!
So how did we get together? It was a paid conference that got us together. It was set up to create groups like ours that could last long term. At VWR, we talk to people all over the states of Colorado and Montana. We are willing to put non competing groups together and get the groups started. We ask nothing but name recognition and knowing that we have helped very important people in the backbone of our country. One of my tenets getting back into business was helping people and I’m going to learn a thing or two that will help me represent Montana farmers and ranchers better. If you are interested in what this article talks about, I encourage you to get in touch with me. I’m not going to put the hard sell on. This is a long term business and I want to help. In the long run, that will pay off for me and I get to make some friends along the way.
I know there are lonely moments and sleepless nights in being a businessman. More now than ever with all the government regulations we face. I found the end of my rope when a new regulation said I could be held criminally responsible for anything that was poured down the drain. I and all of my employees worked incredibly hard to take care that we never disposed of anything that we should not down the drain. The realization that one employees disregard of their training or spite for me or their manager could lead me to being criminally prosecuted was beyond what I could swallow. So, I know the loneliness and risk each Montana farmer and rancher takes. My sincere hope is that I can help a small bit in someone’s business. Opportunities will come from that.
Does this interest you? Get in contact with me so I don’t think I’m the only one thinking this is a decent idea. We are putting on seminars on several different topics where I will be throwing this idea around and will need to build a database of potential people that we can form into groups. I would tell you but don’t want to give away the secrets. Contact me in person if you want to suggest a subject. I want to help and a couple of my former peer group members think I am on the right track! See, it is still paying dividends!
If you are interested please let me know. Here is my contact info:
If I somewhat interested you I would encourage you to like our Facebook page. It has daily updates on topics that impact you as a Montana farmer and/or rancher. I also would encourage you to check out some of our other posts on our blog and follow it so you can get pertinent information.
Until my next crazy idea,