Peer advisory groups help farmers implement operational improvements
When Lee Lubbers has a problem on his farm, he has a sounding board. The Gregory, S.D., farmer simply takes the issue to his peer group and waits for educated and insightful answers to surface.
Last year, Lubbers and his brother, Terry, joined Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network™ (TPEN). The group they belong to comprises nine operations. They meet in person three times a year, but Lubbers says a week hardly goes by where he doesn’t communicate with at least one member of the group.
The constant communication and group synergy has already propelled Lubbers’ operation forward. "Together, we can come up with a solution to any problem," he says. "We know that if we work together, we can overcome weaknesses and amplify strengths."
Prior to joining the group, Lubbers says he had never been able to have an honest, in-depth conversation about his operation with other farmers. With this group, he has complete trust.
Lubbers benefits from the open atmosphere and exchange of ideas. "TPEN is the one tool that I have been looking for to advance our operation," he says. "The opportunity to learn from one another is priceless. We look forward to a whole new level of performance for our operation."
Lance Woodbury, a Garden City, Kan., consultant and peer group facilitator, says a peer advisory group can be the ticket to advance a farm business to the next level. "A peer group can help you think about what to do differently on your farm," he says.
Peer groups offer members benefits, such as new ideas, benchmarks and connections, Woodbury notes. They also offer support, friendship and opportunities. "A peer group gives you the sense that you’re not alone with the problems on your farm," he says.
Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M University farm management specialist, is a strong proponent of peer advisory groups because they force farmers to follow up on good ideas. "One of the biggest problems most people have is implementation," Klinefelter says. "People go to conferences and schools and come away with several ideas, but never act on them."
He points out that peer advisory groups offer members encouragement and help overcome implementation problems. They not only provide good ideas, but also help weed out bad ones. "Peer advisory groups allow you to learn from your own mistakes, successes and experiences and those of other members of the group," he explains.
The 4 Ps of a Good Peer Network
Once you identify the right people for your peer group, there are four characteristics that will help your peer advisory group excel, says Lance Woodbury, consultant and peer group facilitator.
• Common PLACE. Not everybody needs to be from the same area. In fact, it might be better to be spread out. You want to find people who face the same or similar challenges and issues.
• Similar PURPOSE. Clearly identify the mission, vision and goals of your peer advisory group.
• Agreed-upon PROCESS. Put together an outline of how your peer group operates. Be sure to include confidentiality agreements, participation requirements and penalties for not meeting those requirements.
• PERSONALITY. Make sure everyone in your group is compatible, in terms of accomplishments and demeanor. The personality mix of your group is a big contributor to the overall success.
Want to Join a Peer Group?
Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network™ is an exclusive opportunity to improve your business as part of a world-class, professionally facilitated peer-to-peer network. The first national peer group network for farmers, members benefit from the open exchange of information with other producers in an effort to build success. Visit www.tpexecutivenetwork.com, call (855) 827-4953 or e-mail TPEN@farmjournal.com.