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What type of farmer are you?

Since farms have become bona fide SMEs—some with roughly $500,000 in sales, more than $1 million in assets and often considerable debt—farmers must now have the traits of business leaders.

There are 3 major types of farmers:

  • Producers are concerned with the purely technical aspects of running a farm. They excel at constantly incorporating new practices to improve performance, whether in the amount of milk produced by each cow, the number of piglets each sow produces or the number of tonnes of corn produced per hectare. Producers prioritize technical performance.
  • Entrepreneurs are creative people who look ahead. They are trailblazers who live for and on their numerous projects. Entrepreneurs don't shy away from taking risks and remain focused on completing their projects.
  • Managers master all aspects of their businesses. They are focused on financial results. They know their production costs to the penny, as well as how to take calculated, moderate risks. Managers are able to sense market trends like entrepreneurs, and they are always on the lookout for new production methods like producers.

The 8 characteristics of the ideal farmer

The ideal farmer—or super-farmer—has an entrepreneurial spirit and has mastered the technical aspects of the profession. Farmers are business leaders, so they must have the traits of business leaders.

Set clear and real objectives

Say you want to increase your milk production from each cow. Why? To increase your income. Why do you want to increase your income? To do away with tight month-ends. The objective in this case is to improve your financial situation. Increasing production is 1 way. The real objective is clear when there are no more answers to the question “why?”

Be profit-driven

How much does it cost you to sell a litre of milk or a kilo of meat? How can you reduce that cost? Does your business need to maintain or increase production? Can operations be reorganized to reduce costs?

Consider business continuity as essential

What safety margin (the money that remains after repaying loans stated as a percentage of sales) do you maintain in your projects? 1%, 3%, 5%? Effectively assessing risks and maintaining sufficient room to maneuver (in case net income is less than anticipated) are 2 ways to protect your business.

Maintain an overall but detailed vision of your business

You are familiar with and are mastering all aspects of your business (production costs, your employees' level of satisfaction and motivation, steps taken to protect the environment and improve the health of your livestock, etc.). In terms of your finances, you have a vision of your business's growth, clearly defined objectives, a development plan, a list of staffing needs and so on.

Seek to fulfill consumers' needs

Are you listening to your market? How is it changing? If your marketing is not shared, how can you reach your market? How can you meet or exceed your customers' expectations? Can or should you increase the quality of your products or create new ones? Consumers give feedback. Listen to them and meet their needs.

Always have a Plan B

A Plan B is a second way of managing risk and planning a project. Try to anticipate what may go wrong and immediately imagine solutions. The goal is to think of an effective, feasible alternative that could be quickly put into place if Plan A runs into a snag.

Know how to take drastic action

When things really go wrong, a manager takes out the axe. You need to know how to recognize failure and have the courage to change or end a project before it ruins the business. Managerial courage leads to success and helps you overcome obstacles and imagine new solutions. A manager must sometimes show boldness and act quickly when the time comes to change tactics to achieve success.

Surround yourself with the right people

You can learn to be a good manager, and the first step is to surround yourself with the right people in every area of your business. The following are the main people who should be on your team:

  • Expert (management, technical support, environmental, etc.)
  • Mentor
  • Producers association
  • Networking group for entrepreneurs (all industries)

Above all, don't be afraid to try something different.