Updated November 6, 2017
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 breeds of animals, size of acreage, etc…
What is a Peer Group?
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. The 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 guy’s 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.
Is this Different for Montana Farmers and Ranchers?
Some of you are thinking, “but our businesses are not alike!” Different crops, different breeds, different moisture and climates. Montana farmers and ranchers deal with a great deal of diversity. 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 of Montana farmers and ranchers 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!
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 pour down the drain. The realization that one employees disregard of their training or spite for me or their manager could lead to me being criminally prosecuted, was beyond what I could swallow. So, I know the loneliness and risk Montana farmers and ranchers 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. Below 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 about Why Productive Land is a Great Alternative to Stocks or what happens at one of our Eastern Montana Ranches Estate Planning Seminars. Our next seminar is going to be in December of 2017. More information will be available soon.
Until my next crazy idea.
Buzz Tatom is a ranch owner and has built, run and sold numerous businesses in his career. This gives him a unique background in helping Montana farmers and ranchers navigate the life decisions that we all have to face. Whether it is passing the ranch on to the next generation or planning for eventual sale, his talents and contacts help save clients money and navigate complicated transactions.
He still owns the 5T Ranch in Texas but now calls Big Sky, MT home. His background in Texas included finding run down ranches and rehabilitating them into show place properties. From building lakes, stocking fish, to managing for wildlife he has a proven record of increasing values of properties that have given families great memories and returns.
His successful business background allows him to have good knowledge in contracts, dealing with people and has a wide variance of knowledge from his experience in dealing with oil and gas companies on his properties to manufacturing background to knowing who to call to get answers.
He has a BBA from Texas Tech University and got his MBA from Southern Methodist University. While at Texas Tech, he played football and was a 3 year starter as a Tight End. He bought into a Printing company at the age of 24 and grew it ten fold by the time it was sold in 2011.
Buzz teaches part time at Montana State University and loves mentoring students. He has been married to the love of his life, Kathy Tatom, for 25 years and has one son(Tate) and 2 daughters(Sayler and Emmy).
His hobbies include hunting, fly fishing, improving the 5T and following his son Tate in his golf career at the Air Force Academy. His life is divided between family, volunteering, teaching part time at MSU and Church.