Support Your Workforce

September 10, 2013 04:18 AM

Art Schaap

Art Schaap
Clovis and Portales, N.M.

The Schaaps manage four dairies, including an organic operation, and milk 5,500 cows. They’re also partners in a cheese factory.


My father taught me a long time ago that one of the keys to a successful operation is good employees. However, what we all learn very quickly is that finding and retaining good employees is the difficult part. I did not allow my father to express the above statement without also explaining in some detail how you accomplish this goal. So, I would like to tell you what he told me.

First and foremost, train your men or women so that they know more than you do about the job that has been assigned to them. I have seen many employers who do not follow this statement. They seem to feel that if the employee is more knowledgeable about their specific job assignment than the owner, it will lead to disrespect and eventually a loss of that employee.

My experience has only confirmed the exact opposite. Encouraging improvement, promoting new ideas, and making time so that key employees can attend seminars and training sessions will generate great returns in the future.

It is vital that you allow your employees to effectuate skills and abilities that sometimes exceed your own knowledge base. Progress and improvement are not only created and implemented by "outside" experts, but also internally by the new information and advancements that can be produced by your employees. Try to implement the new methods and procedures suggested by key employees, and do not let them fall into a daily routine that diminishes innovation.

Second, work with employees when you can. It shows them that you care about the day-to-day operation of your business and that you are not afraid of "getting your hands dirty." In other words, lead by example.

Employees also need to be paid properly. Pay alone, however, is never enough to retain an employee long term. A good employee has to be shown that he or she is an integral and valued part of the business. This last statement, if it can be properly conveyed to your employees, is worth more than any one-time raise or bonus.

Third, take the time to listen to their business-related problems, and be on site as much as possible so that you are available to address the daily difficulties that they are confronting. If you do as much as you can to support their efforts, it is my experience that your employees will become loyal and long-term assets.

Finally, never ask an employee to do a job that you would not be willing to do yourself. If an employee views an assigned job as one that no one else—especially the owner—is willing to do, it will breed contempt for the work and his or her job performance will be lacking.

I must say that I have never had any difficulties in attracting employees. It has been my experience that if you follow these key guidelines and institute them to the best of your ability, then finding, hiring and retaining good employees should not be a problem.

Schaap’s recent prices

Milk $18.20 (3.45 bf, 3.03 prt)

Cull cows $67-$77/cwt.

Springing heifers $1,250-$1,450/head

Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $240-$290/ton

Cottonseed $410/ton

Rolled milo $245/ton

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