Business Matters: Five Traits of Top Producers

January 28, 2014 06:12 PM
ChrisBarron Business Matters

While working with some amazing producers in the past 15 to 20 years, I’ve observed five prominent traits that distinguish some of the most successful producers.

Interestingly, their success isn’t dictated by good times. Instead, these producers set forth their plans for success regardless of the challenges. In fact, many of these producers made their largest strides during some of the toughest of times. As we move into 2014 and look to 2015, think about your farm and ask if you operate with some of these principles or traits.

1. Demonstrate Exceptional Leadership.
These farmers unite everyone in their operation to work together as one. They delegate responsibility rather than marching orders and function internally as the "transmission fluid," keeping everyone on the same page and all of the gears turning in harmony. When there is a problem, they are able to anticipate it beforehand and have a specific plan of action, such as standard operating procedures, to deal with it.

"While Marketing is a primary focus along with production, profitability is the No. 1 objective."

2. Think Creatively. The classic "out-of-the-box" thinkers, these farmers are not only on the leading edge of technology, but they also track and measure results immediately. They network with the best agricultural companies to develop solutions for improved profitability. They are the first to come up with diverse ways to generate income for their operations. For example, they might venture into ag tourism or a precision ag business to supplement farm income.

3. Focus on Detail. These individuals pay attention to detail, from the equipment being reconditioned and waxed before it’s put away to completing the book work at the end of each day. Mowing field ditches, trimming around every building or grain bin and an organized shop are just a given. These farmers have a clean and organized office, which is used daily for business meetings and planning.

These meetings are planned well in advanced and follow an agenda. During the meetings, action plans with specific goals, assignment responsibilities and deadlines are built. Crop and livestock records are updated on a weekly basis. Cash flow projections and business plans are reviewed quarterly.

4. Plan for Margins. While marketing is a primary focus along with production, profitability is the No. 1 objective. These individuals allocate time and balance marketing, analyzing production costs and actually producing a crop or raising livestock. They take a very comprehensive approach to their business. On average, these producers spend between three and four hours each day working to better understand and identify marketing opportunities. Then, they plan their strategies to take advantage of those identified opportunities. These farmers evaluate and recalculate their margin opportunities based on updated production costs weekly, if not daily.

5. Lend a Helping Hand. This group of farmers that I reference looks for ways to help others. Instead of being jealous of neighboring producers, they love to see others succeed. It’s natural for these individuals to be open-minded and willing to share information. They recognize their own farm’s strengths and weaknesses, and they focus on what they are good at. They are quick to partner with or hire others to compensate for their weaknesses. Loyalty to their suppliers runs deep and is paid back with superior service.

As you continue planning for 2014, consider the health of your farm. Focus on one or even a few of the traits listed above. Work to incorporate them on your farm for future success. 

Chris Barron is director of operations and president of Carson and Barron Farms Inc. in Rowley, Iowa. He is also a farm business consultant and the author of the blog, "Ask a Margins Expert." To submit questions and comments, e-mail Chris at

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