Know your farm's key business drivers

Read more from Darren Frye at

Read more from Darren Frye at

On any given day in the life of a farm leader, there are multiple aspects demanding our attention. Farm leaders have many unique responsibilities, not the least of which is determining the direction of the operation and how the farm is going to reach the goals we’ve set.

In order to better invest our limited time and energy as leaders, we must ask some important questions about our operation and where we’re spending our time. One of the most important things to know and understand is: What is going to impact and drive the growth, improvement and ultimately, the success of our operation the most?

The big influence

For many farmers, it feels natural to focus on production and production-related areas of their operation. Production is, after all, at the very core of farming. If we don’t produce a crop, we’re not going to survive very long as a business!

But there are some other key areas of our farm business that, if we focus on them, can make a big difference in our outcomes. We can start by evaluating our operation and how we’re spending our time. Then we can see if any changes in our focus might help us create the success we want to see for our business.

Set aside some time to make a list of potential areas in your business that have the biggest impact on the farm’s success. Think about internal aspects rather than external forces that cannot be influenced or controlled, such as weather. Think broadly and write down anything and everything that impacts your farm’s success that you have some level of control or influence upon.

Now it’s time to distill your list down to the key drivers—those areas that have the most direct impact on whether or not the farm is successful in a given year. Make this list as short as possible. Include only the areas that, if you were able to significantly improve your outcomes in them, would have a big influence on the farm’s success.

Critical condition

The concept of the “critical few” is at play here—the handful of items we need to focus on to make the biggest impact and create the most return on our efforts within the business. These are the things, that if we focus on them, will truly make our operation better.

Look at the short list you’ve created of key drivers. Where can you, as the leader, invest specific time and energy to improve the outcome of each one? Are there one or two that stand out as needing particular attention because improvement in them would make an even bigger difference to the operation?

This is a starting point for where you as the farm’s leader can multiply your efforts—you can spend more of your time on the area or areas that are most crucial to the success of the farm. As you create more focus in those areas, that energy can then ripple out into plans to involve others on the farm, as well.

Start by figuring out your farm’s “critical few” and where you could invest time and work to make a big difference. You can also talk with an advisor for the farm to investigate some ways to start making additional impact on your farm’s success.