Connecting the dots between farming and business

I always come away from the furniture market convinced that I have the best job one could ask for. I get to speak to smart people, glean new ideas and feel grateful to be a part of this business.

During the market, I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Ron Wanek of Ashley Furniture.

Sitting at that meeting, I realized I’ve not only known Ron Wanek for more than 30 years, but that I also learn something every time I get the chance to visit with him.

During our chat, which had absolutely nothing to do with farming, I found myself thinking that Ron grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and from there, as we talked, I started connecting the dots between farming and not only the furniture business but business in general.

Farmers have to intimately know the land in the sense of which crops will grow best in certain soils. 

Businesses have to know the landscape that they compete in and know which products will work in specific markets.

For many farmers, The Farmer’s Almanac was the must-read publication to get insights into any elements that might impact the upcoming planting season.

Businesses need to keep their ears and eyes open to paradigm shifts, trends and unforeseen shifts in the market that could impact sales and profitability.

Before seeing any fruits of their labor, farmers know that they first must cultivate the soil, then plant the seeds, tend to the soil and wait until it is time to harvest.

Businesses need to plan, strategize, manufacture, market and advertise before they can harvest business.

And speaking of planting seeds, farmers need to plant the right seeds in the right soil at the right time. If they fail to do that, the crop fails and if that happens too often, the farmer loses the farm.

Businesses also need to plant the right seeds in the right soil. And by that, I mean hiring the right employees, bringing out the right product, pricing the products correctly and handling problems quickly and ethically. 

Any successful farmer will tell you that if the field is neglected, weeds will quickly sprout and choke the plants and ruin a harvest.

In business, weeds can come in the form of weak hiring practices, subsequent bad employees, poor morale, inefficient systems and much more. If no one is managing the weeds, no one is ultimately managing the business.

Farmers know that bumper crops don’t happen every year and that what appears to be a great year can vanish overnight because of an infestation of locusts, a string of bad weather or other obstacles.

While no farmer can be prepared for every roadblock, smart farmers learn from bad times and develop contingency plans should the same problems happen again.

Smart businesses are no different. Unexpected problems happen and while we may not be able to solve them the first time, we can all learn what not to do should a similar problem happen in the future.

A successful farmer plants the right seed in the right soil at the right time. 

The farmer follows that by giving those seeds the ingredients they need to bear fruit.  

A successful business does the same thing, except with employees instead of seeds. 

They hire the right employee for the right job, then provide them with the things they need to succeed and flourish.

Lastly, any good farmer knows that one reaps what one sows. They also have to think years out, not weeks out. For example, a farmer may try to boost short-term yields by aggressively working a certain field, but that has a long-term consequence on the soil.

Many businesses, especially since the pandemic, have made seat-of-the-pants decisions that hopefully will not come back to bite them where they sit.

With that said, the most successful farmers are visionaries that see and plan big-picture strategies.

We need to do the same. Hopefully, if we do, we will have earned our respective harvests.

One thought on “Connecting the dots between farming and business

  1. What a fantastic article. I learned a lot from reading Rays editorial.
    Thanks for another eye opening story.

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