We have the good fortune of working with some amazing farm families as clients. It’s always a privilege to meet with them and learn about their operation, whether they are just starting out or have had the farm in their family for generations. I can’t think of anything that requires more discipline, faith, and hard work. It’s a world full of challenges most of us can’t even dream of, with a lot that can go wrong on the way to harvest, from weather to commodity price fluctuations. Farming is a business and with all businesses, with risks come rewards. It can be extremely satisfying to have such a direct connection between your hard work and the results – the harvest.
The business world has a lot to learn from how farming revolves so closely around the harvest. The crop cycle does not work according to our timetables. Harvest happens when and only if the crop is ready. Try to bring the crop in too soon or too late and you run into trouble. But when it’s harvest time, it’s harvest time and you’ve got to get after it.
Often in business, we make things more complicated than they need to be. We do a lot of iteration, a lot of endless tweaking and perfecting. This can be a good thing, but we get it backward sometimes. When it’s harvest time, farmers have a very small window to get their crops out of the field and get paid for the hard work they have put in over the past 12 months. Harvest has a way of focusing the mind and your efforts on what matters most.
In business, we test market, we tinker, we want to make changes to our pet project before we raise our prices, or charge for that product or service, or even share the idea with the world. But a farmer doesn’t have time for tinkering when the harvest is ready. It’s time to stop iterating and start gathering those crops up!
A farm, like any other business, is about earning money. It is about generating a profit. It is okay in business to make money, it is okay in business to generate a profit. That’s what you’re in business to do. That is what allows you to hire people, create jobs and bring even better products and services to the market. Too often, we iterate our way out of great opportunities in the marketplace when it’s really time to reap the harvest.
The often-quoted adage, “Make hay while the sun shines,” fits here. Take a close look at how you are spending your time. Are you harvesting or iterating? You need to spend your time generating cash-flow. What does that look like for you? Where are your clients coming from? How do you find them? How do you let them know you are the best choice for them in the marketplace? That is the work of the harvest.
There is a place for iteration – absolutely. In order to improve and stay competitive, you have to keep an eye on the horizon – on what will happen after the harvest. But to get there takes some sweat equity. It’s about doing what needs to be done when the time is right. When the harvest is ripe for the picking.
Our farm clients are on to something. There is a rhythm, a steadiness to the cycle of life on the farm, even in the midst of the uncertainty of it. When you plant, you are never 100% sure what will happen in the intervening months or what the end result will look like. All you can do is get ready, quit tinkering, and do everything you can to bring in a bumper crop.
So get after it. Stop iterating and start harvesting!