What's your WHY?

Published on: 14:26PM Nov 16, 2012

Two powerful realizations hit me as I attended the Elite Dairy Producer Conference sponsored by Dairy Today. First, one of the dairy producers I was talking with shared his view of the business. As he described his current situation, he sounded rather worn out, uncertain what the future would hold, almost as if his purpose for being in business was no longer clear.

Granted, the delicate milk price/feed price balance right now is enough to make anyone feel uncertain. However, this particular producer’s tone struck me. It was unusual for an event like the Elite Producer Conference. Of course, I wanted to help him. I wanted to ask him more about what he had done to manage the price volatility that was the source of so much frustration. From what I gathered, he had done very little to take control of price risk. I wanted to break through his gloom, explain how the tools work and how we could help him.

Then I came home, and one of our Stewart-Peterson employees had me watch a video by Simon Sinek. The gist of Sinek’s work is that people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. People want to be inspired. That made me think about this dairy producer again.

If I really wanted to help this person, I couldn’t just explain HOW to manage price risk. I would have to help him see WHY. For me, the WHY is very simple: I believe that no agricultural producer should be a victim of volatility. There are tools to help you take control. You don’t have to be beaten down by economic forces outside the farm. I believe that in my heart of hearts. That’s my WHY.

To remain an optimist in a business full of uncertainty and the never-ending drive to be more efficient, you have to know WHY you do it. Making money isn’t enough of a WHY. It needs to be something like, "carry on my Dad’s dream" or "provide opportunity for my kids" or "be the best employer in my community" or "retire and travel."  And yet, in order for those big life goals to be achieved, your business has to make money. The WHY inspires you to figure out HOW.

If you’re down about input prices, politics, employee issues or other business pressures, think about your WHY. Recommit to your business, and then seek out the help you need to figure out HOW to remain profitable and achieve all the things you want to achieve. Above all, don’t give up. Your WHY is out there.

It seems that many people in agriculture have a deeply rooted WHY. Can you express yours? Send me an email and let me know, or post it here.

Scott Stewart is CEO of Stewart-Peterson, a commodity marketing consulting firm based in West Bend, Wis. You may reach Scott at 800-334-9779, email him at [email protected]

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