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RSS By: Chris Barron

Chris BarronHave a margins question? Through this blog, you will gain insight into improving your bottom line, as a margins expert answers questions and provides farm business advice.


Prioritize Plan Your Spring Work Load

Mar 25, 2011


In order to maximize margins every solid business plan must contain an objectives list. With the spring work load ahead and the pressures of long hours and equipment challenges, it’s important to have your plan ready before you need it.
Here is a basic checklist to help you organize and prioritize your spring work load. You may have several additional tasks to add to the list but the point is to get started making a list. Actually writing down the list and prioritizing your projects will help you to improve your efficiency and communication with your partners, employees, suppliers, landlords, and family.
1.       Marketing plan: Review your plan and understand your targets in order to be disciplined when opportunities present themselves. Generally some of the best marketing opportunities occur on the days we are extremely tired from long hours, dealing with planting challenges, and basically not focusing on the markets at all. Consider placing some small offers at a level you would be comfortable making a sale. If one hits the target it will alert you to take a minute to focus on the market opportunities.   
2.       Hi bred and variety placement: Spend some time making sure that your hybrid selections are predetermined for specific field placement. Getting the right hybrid on the right field can pay you large agronomic dividends. Time is precious at planting time; therefore, trying to figure out where your hybrids go from the planter seat is just another unneeded distraction.
3.       Herbicide plan: If you do your own spraying the priorities are very similar to hybrid placement. The wrong herbicide on a field can kill the entire field. A basic written plan for herbicide placement is well worth an hour or two of time. Figuring rates, Tank mixes, and being sure to understand all of the usage information will save more than time but will ultimately improve your bottom line.
4.        Contingency plan: Remember to think about the (what if's) of all your plans. What if your primary tillage tractor goes down? What if a particular hybrid you've been waiting for on a specific field doesn't show up? What if a key operator gets sick during planting season? Invest some time answering your individual –“what if questions”. Time is money and by having a plan in play in case of a problem you can save massive amounts of time which translates immediately to the bottom line.
5.       Labor force: Make sure everyone understands the specific plans for the planting season. Invest some time writing down some of the short-term goals for spring and have this information available for everyone in your operation. Making your tillage and planting plans transparent for everyone within your operation will have a positive impact on your overall efficiency.
6.       Lender communication: Fieldwork time is a great opportunity to invite your lender to spend some time on your operation in order to better understand the character and dynamics of your business. During spring work lenders generally have more time for farm visits. Invite your lender to your operation for the day and cultivate your relationship!
7.       Landlord communication: Invite your landlords out in the field if they're physically able to participate or ride along in the equipment. Have them spend some time with the various field operations on their farm. This participation will help them have a better appreciation for your commitment to their land and the working relationship you have with them. By working on your relationship it will open the doors to longer-term opportunities.
8.       Family expectations: Don't neglect your family. Sometimes you'll need to work long hours for long stretches at a time, however, your kids are only young once. Investing a couple of hours to catch a track meet or a ballgame will pay you big dividends in the long run. Pre-plan for an alternate operator to assist you if you absolutely must keep a piece of machinery moving. It's possible to take care of business and family at the same time. Life is a balancing act.
9.       Safety: Spend some time doing a walk-through of your machinery and equipment before spring field work begins. Think about potential problems or situations that could put you or your counterparts in a dangerous position. Even a small injury can cause a significant amount of downtime. Slowing down, getting enough sleep, and developing a safety plan will ultimately help you be more effective and profitable.
This is a brief list of several items to consider before spring field work is in full swing. Invest some time making your personal priority list. Write it down and keep it simple. Share the information with your key partners and family in order to accomplish your goals. If everyone is on the same page and working toward the same destination your spring productivity will be at maximum capacity. Time is money so keep this quote in mind. “Managing your margins isn't always just about making the dollars and cents; it's more about making Sense with the dollars.”
Good Luck with Your Spring Plans!
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