Profit in the Details Generate creative solutions

May 15, 2009 07:00 PM
Dan Little
With milk prices continuing to lag in the face of increased feed costs, the financial stress continues to increase for most producers and suppliers in the dairy industry.

This is an energy-consuming process that leaves us tired, frustrated and often unable to think clearly about creative solutions.

One way of generating effective solutions or alternatives is to assemble a team of trusted members of your staff, family and suppliers to investigate any new possibilities that might be available to your operation.

By allowing open input from a variety of sources, a solution often emerges that is greater than any one individual on the team might have created. Here are some actions that you can take as a manager to optimize the performance of your team:

Meet away from the farm. This is as easy as renting a meeting room in a local hotel. (And turn the cell phones off!) The few hundred dollars that may be necessary to rent the room will be returned many times over with the increased productivity of your meeting. Large (20"x30") pads work great for posting notes on the walls during the meeting. Ordering pizza or catering a light meal is appreciated by many.

Establish goals. Yes, this means planning ahead.

Clearly describe the goals of your meeting to the attendees. Specific and measurable goals will help the group to focus on the task at hand.

If possible, concentrate on goals that have specific economic outcomes in order to challenge the group to view the issues through your eyes as the financial manager of the dairy. Decisions that address increased milk production, improved milk quality and increased feed efficiency will usually fix most financial problems.

Brainstorm ideas. Remember that all ideas have merit and should not be evaluated at the moment they are suggested. Simply write down the ideas and save the analysis for later in the meeting. Once you have a completed list, the team can evaluate and prioritize the ideas based on their potential to achieve your goals.

Integrate financial analysis. This is often the most difficult portion of the exercise, since most of the production people on your team will not understand finance and the financial people may have a limited understanding of production. It might be necessary to engage an outside consultant to assist the team with accurate financial estimates for guidance in coming up with solutions.

Communicate your plan. Now that the team has evaluated the possibilities, it is important to communicate the plan to all people involved. This may mean bilingual written summaries, additional meetings and continued reminders of the goals and actions that have been agreed upon by the group.

Measure results. There is a good chance that everyone involved in the meeting will want to know the outcome of any changes. Work with your financial consultant to portray the information in the form of graphs or charts. Based on the results, review your goals—and start preparing for another meeting!

Bonus content:

Dairy Net Inc.

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