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Five Tips for Planning for Your Future

by Betty Berning

Extension Educator

It is the start of a New Year.  It’s full of promise and opportunities!  What are you going to do?  Did you make a few resolutions in your personal life?  Maybe you’ll spend more time with your family, exercise, or read more books?   

Planning in business and farming is similar to making resolutions.  Both require giving some thought to the future by identifying what you might like to do.  They both take commitment and patience.  Plans in farming, though, are often more complicated than some of the simple resolutions we make in our personal life.  Additionally, it may take longer to reach our business goals than our personal goals.  In order for a business to be successful, it is critical to have a plan in place. I’d like to offer five tips for business planning:

  1. Take the Time to Make the Plan:  It is really easy to get caught up in daily tasks of milking cows, running errands, fixing machinery, and growing crops.  These day-to-day activities will eat up all of your time, if you let them.  Set aside time (schedule it if you have to!) to work on your plan.  It might not feel like you are increasing profitability by thinking and writing, but you will create more value by mapping out your vision and working toward it than you will if you simply keep with the status quo.
  2. Bring others into the conversation:  Talk to your spouse, parents, and business partners about your plans.  What are their goals?  Are you aligned?  It is critical that everyone is working toward the same goals.  If not, conflicts will arise as you each work on your own interests.
  3.  Be Willing to Acknowledge Past Mistakes:  This can be difficult, but is very important.  If you want to take charge of your future, you have to be willing to determine where you could have been more proactive, rather than reactive.  Look back.  Where could you have done better?  Don’t feel sorry for yourself, but be honest about your shortcomings.  Identify them and determine where you could have done better.  Perhaps you failed to market your grain and had full bins at harvest time.  What can you do to avoid that in the future?
  4.  Make a realistic plan:  Chances are slim that you will increase your acreage from 1,000 acres to 10,000 acres in a year.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Be realistic.  Set short, medium, and long range goals.  For your long range goals, identify what you need to do in the next year to make progress.
  5. Revisit your plan:  This is a lot like the first point.  You need to make time to not only work on your plan, but also to revisit it on a consistent basis.  If your goal is to grow your milking herd from 80 cows to 300 cows, you’ll want to check in to see how you’re doing against that goal.  What are your next steps?  When can you accomplish them?  Is your goal still realistic?  Spend time on the plan so you can keep moving forward.

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