By Mark Faustturbulent times
How do you feel about “your” economy right now? Regardless of whether or not you see it as up or down, is your effort to innovate consistent, or does it undulate with your industry’s economic tide?

In the agricultural world we have been seeing a descent into what has long been expected, a downturn of the ag economy after a long and gilded age. I have had the privilege to speak to some of the most innovative growers in the nation. Their attitude about the opportunity in this downturn is telling, and it reminds me of a Harvard Business School report that spoke of how the best-run companies grow and benefit from economic downturns…the question is how do they do it and what tactics could you model to grow and benefit from inevitable cyclical downturns?

It’s odd to some that there are 8 figure sized family farms and 9 and 10 figure ag businesses that entered this down economy with a focus on how they are going to grow during this “opportunity.” Their focus is on how they can bring greater value to existing customers and new markets.

Let’s look at the big picture you’re painting as well as how your innovativeness can spur growth regardless of the economy.

Relative to the big picture, the first mistake many businesses make is around how their vision, purpose or cause is too abstract and ill focused. For example, how often have you heard a vision that includes, “to become a global leader in our industry…” This is not a “cause” or an inspirational vision, because it is not about another human being; these statements are often about the personal self-interest of a detached CEO. A cause requires a focus on another human being, and ideally creates clear pictures about exactly how and who you serve.

It is interesting how misdirected visions impede innovation and the value delivered a customer.

Do you have the “ADDING VALUE FOCUS?” There is only one secret to business, ADD MORE VALUE! How much intensity of focus do you, and your team put on innovatively adding more and more value? Do you have any objectives in your plan to add more VALUE and is there any type of measurement of how much more you aim to add, or have added? This sounds too simple to most people but this is the difference between a business that grows during a down economy and one that cuts and runs in fear.

What are the results or level of results that you produce for a customer that no one else does? How do you or how can you produce results that no one else is producing? Do you even ask those questions regularly throughout your team?

A favorite conversation I had recently was with a grower who farms tens of thousands of acres. I asked him about how he is looking at the imminent future with such a “bad” ag economy, and his answer was inspiring. “Mark a winter is coming, and I’m going to flipping own it!”
What’s your attitude going to be as you weather tougher times? Are you and your team looking at how you’re going to own it and grow, or are you cutting and running?

Remind your team that leadership in frigid economies is not just the responsibility of just those at the top; it is a responsibility of everyone throughout the organization, a mission they must take up together and vigorously and constantly be asking themselves and your customers about how your company can create more value.

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