Manager's Corner

 
Manager's Corner
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Make Business Meetings Count

There’s little time to spare in farm country, particularly at harvest. To that end, it’s important business meetings stay on point and productive. As a farm manager, you have the ability to direct the flow of conversation among team members for maximum efficiency.

Writing for Entrepreneur.com, author Stan Popovich says one of the best ways to start is by setting an agenda for the discussion. Put pen to paper with goals to be accomplished, and ensure everyone in attendance is aware of them. 

Once the meeting begins, have a plan in place for communicating those goals. Think about how you’ll explain them in the event the topic is hard to grasp or might encounter resistance. “If someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, don’t lose patience,” Popovich advises. “Instead, try to rephrase your communication so everyone is on board.” 

Because meetings can get off track with side conversations, don’t be afraid to step in and guide the discussion back to your objectives. Ask questions of your team members about the topics at hand, and encourage them to be a part of the process. “Create a friendly atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions,” he says. That includes being patient and sticking around to answer questions. 

Lastly, it’s a good idea to set deadlines for your goals. Clear directions will ensure they are understood by those in attendance and accomplished in a timely way.


Write a Smarter Newsletter

If you create an email newsletter for landlords or have considered starting one this winter, the project might seem daunting. It can be hard to creatively educate and explain business practices out in the field. 

In reality, providing a smart update simply means giving credit where credit is due, says Steve Robinson, an educational marketing expert with Constant Contact, in a post for NBC-TV 5 in Chicago. 

For example, a newsletter might contain original updates from your farm as well as commentary about an informative farm blog post from a producer in another state. “Just be sure to give credit and a link to the original source,” Robinson explains. 

Other approaches include actively answering questions landlords pose, creating an editorial calendar that allows you to anticipate topics to cover month-to-month, reusing great photos and text that have resonated in the past, and using a simple tool such as SurveyMonkey to get anonymous feedback from landlords about issues they’d like for you to address in future emails.


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Boost Social Media Security

No matter the size of a business, managers must be careful to educate their employees about the need for caution on social media platforms such as Facebook. In part, that’s because misguided posts and profiles can jeopardize brand reputation and expose professional accounts to hackers, writes Robert Siciliano of customer relationship management company Salesforce in a post for Forbes.com.

Siciliano recommends the following actions to safeguard your social media accounts from risk:

  • Enact a policy that identifies which employees can access business accounts and what appropriate behavior on the platform should look (and read) like.
  • Ask employees to avoid identifying their workplace when creating personal profiles on social media, thus limiting your farm’s risk exposure in the event a team member says something you wouldn’t endorse
  • Instruct employees to not participate on niche networks some might consider off-color to prevent a reputation crisis. 
  • Ensure technology specialists on your farm are aware of social media security risks and take time to routinely update office computers and mobile devices with the latest security patches. 

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Recommended App: Grain Storage Manager

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This tool enables managers to track grain being stored on-farm relative to bin capacity. After creating an account, users customize the app by inputting the number of bins, locations and capacities. Users assign incoming grain loads to those bins and update the data when they ship product to market.


Corrections:

In the October 2014 issue, the article titled “Circle of Trust” misidentified the name of Mike Richardson, an international business coach with Vistage International. In the September 2014 issue, the article titled “Drinking Buddies” incorrectly stated the height of water that would cover a football field based on irrigation savings attained at Hillside Ranch. The correct height would be 2.32'. Top Producer regrets the errors.


Adjust Body Language to Improve Communication

Up to 90% of communication with others involves nonverbal signals, explains author Peter Economy in an article for Inc.com. Thus, it’s critical to successfully interact with others, whether that means a farm partner, an employee or a neighboring producer. 

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Pay attention to your posture and tone in conversation.

Take a moment to check up on your body language before getting in the truck and heading to that next appointment. For starters, position yourself directly across from the person with whom you’re speaking. 

“Keep your legs apart a bit instead of crossed—this demonstrates that you’re relaxed, and research shows that you retain more information when you keep your legs uncrossed,” Economy notes. Next, notice the location of your arms. As with your legs, leave them uncrossed to reflect your openness to the ideas being expressed. When starting and ending a meeting, use a firm (as opposed to crushing) handshake. In the event farm meetings take you overseas or to meetings where producers from a variety of countries are represented, brush up on cultural greetings with advance research.

Control of your head and voice is another important component of communication. Maintain eye contact and nod at appropriate points to show you are listening. “Monitor your voice,” Economy advises. “Keep it low, and don’t end every sentence as if it’s a question. Take a deep breath, and speak slowly and clearly.”

Finally, think about ways to improve overall presentation with note-taking. Not only are you keeping good records to use later on the farm; you’re also demonstrating your concern for the topic at hand. 

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