I don’t know why everyone needs the excuse of a new year to start things off on a new foot. However, it is the vogue thing to do. It seems many are busy trying to stick to the resolutions they made 15 seconds before the stroke of midnight. Some have probably already fallen short and others are probably on the edge. So I got thinking, what exactly is a resolution? Is it simply not a goal? And should goals not be the driving force behind our day-to-day lives and how we run our businesses?
Many think and make the excuse that running a ranch is a lifestyle choice and not a business. All I can say is that’s a bunch of BS! Ranching is a business and not a right. If you want the lifestyle you better understand that operating and running it is about setting goals and measuring your performance against what you set out to achieve. As Stan Parsons once said, “If you want to be a cowboy — then get a job.”
When Erika and I set off on our ranching endeavour here in the land of the Mighty Peace we realized we needed a means of sharing our philosophies and ideas with our customers — the internet was the logical choice. Through the process of building our website we realized we also needed a mission statement that summarized who we are, what we are about, and how we like to approach things. From that brainstorming on a late night in December we came up with four words that summarize our approach to life and business. Spirit View Ranch is about, “Turning Goals into Results.”
I immigrated to Canada from Switzerland in 1975 with my parents because my father had a dream and a goal of dairy farming in Canada. Growing up I always knew I would one day be involved in agriculture, but I was never quite certain where the road would take me. It could have easily been the dairy industry had I chosen that path, but somehow the romance of the open range and grazing livestock excited me more than TMR rations, cleaning barns and milking cows twice per day. Now looking back all I can say is that at least producers who choose that career are fairly compensated for what they do. In fact, I believe there is nothing wrong with the supply managed sectors especially when you realize that the producers are paid for their costs of production, return on investment and guaranteed a reasonable profit when they manage their business correctly.
I am not a Warren Buffet, but I believe part of the success in agriculture comes from working on two main aspects of your business — cost of production and marketing. A good friend of mine once told me if you can be in the bottom 20 per cent of cost of production and top 20 per cent of marketing you will create an operating margin. Cost of production is one reason why Erika and I relocated into the Peace region in 2003. We realized there was no way ranching in central Alberta would ever be profitable if you evaluated the cost of land ownership, rent and the competition for feed resources.
Doing a real-estate flip was however only one part of our goal for lowering costs of production. Other parts of the puzzle included calving the cows in synch with the seasons, utilization of legumes in our pasture mixes, extension of the grazing seasons, keeping overhead under control and running cattle that were suited to our management and resources. Managing the costs of production is however only one part of our goal for improving the margins within our business.
The second part of the equation is improving how we market our products. From our ranch we market alfalfa and grass seed, genetics (semen and bulls) and beef. Each of these products has a different contribution to our cash flow; however for this column I will stick to beef and by the way please note I did not say calves. Marketing beef through Prairie Heritage Beef producers has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding goals that Erika and I have set. Since setting out on this journey, total beef marketing’s and returns have grown, which has added value to our forages, and added predictability to our returns because of selling into a specific market rather than the spot commodity of that day. Recently I read a great quote that summarizes what goals are — “looking ahead to get ahead.”
With the risk of sounding too confident in what I say, I would like to go back to the title of this column — “Resolutions of Goals.” There will always be things in life that just happen, that we will have minimal control over. However, by having clear goals we have a roadmap of where we want to go, how to get there and how to approach the things we have no control over.
Ronald Reagan once wrote, “My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind about what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose — somehow we win out.” Aristotle wrote, “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.”
My definition of goals fall into three time frames — short-term, today to one month; medium-term, one month to three months; and long-term, — greater than three months. Some people who know me think I am borderline obsessed with this philosophy. Maybe they’re right, however, if I look at successful and unsuccessful people I know the common factor differentiating the two, is one has goals and the other just spins their wheels from one year to the next. Goals are used to set an intense desire, which creates a mental picture and sheer persistence, to get to the end result.
Creating a resolution is really about setting goals. If you want to change your life and create a new vision for your business then realize that setting goals should be done throughout the year rather than the traditional dying seconds of the old year. So my New Year’s challenge to all of you is to write down 10 goals — short, medium and long term — for the coming year. Share them with your family and friends and then use deadlines as the lifelines to get them done. Surviving the challenges in agriculture is about attitude, and it starts by “turning goals into results.”
Dr. Christoph E. Weder is a purebred Angus breeder in the Peace region of Alberta and also runs SVR Ranch Consulting. For additional info check out www.spiritviewranch.com