Thomas Young was an English scientist who lived from 1773 to 1829. He made important contributions to the study of energy, light, mechanics, physiology, language, musical harmony, and Egyptology. He was greatly admired by scientists who followed, including Albert Einstein.
Young essentially understood every aspect of the scientific knowledge of his age. A brilliant man? Of course. An extraordinary genius? Probably. But he also had the advantage of taking up science when the amount of available knowledge could still be contained in a single human brain. Young is remembered by many as "the last person to know everything."
The generations of scientists who followed Young, however brilliant they were, found they needed to focus on increasingly narrow areas of expertise. From Einstein to Hubble to Salk, they made their contributions by concentrating on a single line of inquiry.
Finding Your Focus
What does that have to do with commodity marketing? Just this: Think of the farmer of a couple of generations ago. He tended to have a diverse array of outputs, from grains to row crops to livestock. In addition to planting, tending, harvesting and selling his cash crops, he knew how to dehorn cattle, to tend an orchard, and to fix his tractor in the shade of a tree if it needed doing. In his own way, he was as knowledgeable in his field as Thomas Young was in his. But like the world of science, the world of agriculture has gotten a whole lot more complicated.
To allow yourself to perform at your optimum within your focus area, it’s important to strip away unnecessary decisions. That can mean that one of your most critical decisions is choosing which decisions to delegate.
Freeing Your Time
As a manager, you wouldn’t let valued, highly specialized employees spend time away from their area of expertise, doing jobs they were less than optimally equipped for. In this case, that valuable, specialized employee is you. So if you’re not an expert when it comes to managing commodity opportunities and risks, you may owe it to your business to hire an expert.
The challenge is, how do you select an expert in a field where you yourself are not an expert? You can start with three key questions:
Can these folks show how they’ve addressed challenges like mine? Will the process be difficult or expensive? And finally, is this a group of people I can actually enjoy working with? The answers can tell you if you’ve found the right expert to assist you in this critical aspect of managing your operation.
Making Your Choice
The commodity marketing professional you hire should strategically prepare you to act no matter what volatile commodity markets may do, and base counsel on objective assessments rather than personal market opinion. This person should help you maintain discipline in decision-making. And, the person you hire should be an accountable and trustworthy professional.
In the final analysis, farm operations do best when their leaders:
1. Give themselves the time and resources to manage their primary areas of expertise.
2. Have an awareness that they may need to delegate some aspects of the business.
3. Possess a practiced eye for choosing the right experts to support their efforts.
Scott Stewart is CEO of Stewart-Peterson, a commodity marketing consulting firm based in West Bend, Wis. You may reach Scott at 800-334-9779, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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