Editor’s Column: A strong business IQ will be critical in navigating this black swan cycle

Black swan: An unpredictable and rare event typically with severe consequences.


Last month, I took part in my first real-time, multi-day, digital farm show since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Ag in Motion Discovery Plus, which was held live July 21-25 (and was the first venue of its kind in ag), was attended by thousands of farmers and other industry stakeholders each day.

In my opinion — and that of many others who attended — it was an excellent venue. Sure, it was different attending this event on my iPad — from an armchair, with my feet up, and a steady stream of refreshments (lattes) and nibbles (popcorn) at my side — than being at the show site in Langham, Sask. Usually, I love attending farm shows and conferences in person because you can feel the excitement in the air, see the crops and touch the machinery, and there is no substitute for meeting people in person — to be able to look them in the eyes, shake their hands and listen to their stories. New friends, new ideas, crop tours, ride and drives — these experiences are uplifting and inspiring as well as informative. How was a digital experience going to com- pare?

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I don’t know if it was the novelty, the mix of speakers, the interactivity of the digital platform (Swapcard), the high-quality video presentations or the ability to chat live with other attendees while the presentations were taking place, but there was still that excitement — that energy — farm shows produce. And it was even easier to learn something new because you could replay important parts of the presentations.

The live Q-and-A discussions could be as interesting as the presentations and enhanced the information being given. I also virtually met all sorts of people in the industry through the networking functions and chatrooms built into the platform. Yes, the experience was completely different from attending a farm show in person; however, it was just as rewarding. And I look forward to the upcoming digital farm shows, including Canada’s Digital Farm Show (in place of Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show) Sept. 15-18 and the Farm Forum Event Nov. 9-10. The list of speakers for Farm Forum Event (which looks fantastic) is already posted at farmforumevent.com.

As I mentioned above, the speakers were first rate at Ag in Motion. One of the keynote addresses answered many of the questions surrounding the pandemic and the effects it will have on agriculture. David M. Kohl, professor emeritus of agricultural finance and small business management and entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, provided us with the big picture as well as a focused view and actionable items for farmers with respect to the immediate consequences and aftermath of the pandemic in his presentation called, “Managing through the Black Swan Cycle: How will the COVID-19 Pandemic Transform Agriculture?”

In his presentation, Kohl gave a detailed report on what we could expect for the next two years and beyond during this black swan event, which he described will occur in three distinct phases: Phase 1, the dirty bird; Phase 2, the angry bird; and Phase 3, the phoenix. He also covered such important issues as COVID disruptors and the many black swan disruptor positives for agriculture now and into the future.

Strong business IQ

While discussing the transition from the black swan to the phoenix stage, one of many important points Kohl made was the business model of the future would require four pillars, which are: 1) resiliency, 2) agility, 3) being entrepreneurial and innovative and 4) having a strong business IQ.

Having a strong business IQ is paramount. “The 1980s took out a lot of average and below- average production managers. This event will take out a number of average and below-average business managers who don’t have that business IQ,” Kohl said. And he’s developed a business IQ scorecard (see at top) that more than 1,000 farmers have taken made up of 15 questions for crucial conversations about their businesses — from knowing their costs of production to their business, family and personal goals. After completing his Business IQ: Management Factors Scorecard (see at the link, and in the graphic at the top of this web page), Kohl urges farmers to make a list of three areas where their businesses are doing well and three areas for improvement.

Farmers who ask themselves these important questions will have higher odds of a favourable outcome while moving through and beyond the current economic environment.

“Is this going to guarantee success? No. But it puts the probabilities on your side,” said Kohl.

This is just a very small slice of the wisdom and information Kohl provided in his presentation. But don’t take my word for it. Did I mention you can still register for Ag in Motion Discovery Plus at aginmotion.ca and watch this presentation and many more until the end of the year? They’re entertaining, informative and free.

Plus, there’s lots of good advice to take you through the upcoming harvest.

About the author

Editor

Kari Belanger

Kari Belanger has been a writer and editor since graduating from the University of Calgary with a B.Sc. in Biology and a BA in English Literature in 1996. For more than twenty years, she has worked in many different industries and media, including newspapers and trade publications. For the past decade she has worked exclusively in the agriculture industry, leading a number of publications as editor. Kari has a particular passion for grower-focused publications and a deep respect for Canadian farmers and the work they do. Her keen interest in agronomy and love of writing have led to her long-term commitment to support, strengthen and participate in the industry.

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