Mind Your Farm Business — Ep. 40: Chasing rabbits and long-term planning


Has anyone ever told you, “you have to have a plan”?

For many small businesses, creating and monitoring a plan can be difficult, but if done right, a long-term plan will provide the tools for long-term success.

In this Mind Your Farm Business podcast, Larry Martin, principal with Agri-food Management Excellence, and owner of Dr. Larry Martin and Associates, joins host Shaun Haney to discuss the process.

“In any planning situation, the first thing you want to do is ask what’s happening in the external market — the things that are out of your control,” explains Martin. “That’s to inform you what you want to change in that new environment. But you still have control over all sorts of things in the internal environment that I think you change, in order to be able to adapt to what the external environment is telling you.”

Martin emphasizes the importance of doing an analysis on your farm’s strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats — but not necessarily in the order we are used to doing it.

“What I like to ask is why would you want to do a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity, and Threat Analysis) analysis. Why would you start with strengths and weaknesses, if you don’t know where you want to go? So instead, I actually call it ‘TOWS’: Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. So you look at what are my threats and opportunities, in terms of what can I accomplish out there, now what are my strengths and weaknesses against that new market area? No matter what, you always have to look at all four of those things in order to do your planning properly.”

When asked about the importance of focus in a plan, Martin gives his favourite Chinese proverb: If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

“Focus is really, really important. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that most major corporations will never have more than four things that they are going to focus on in their plan for the next year. So if a farmer comes in with 15 different strategic attempts — if an international corporation can’t focus on more than four — how can you possibly focus on 15?

“What I find is once you get down to those three or four things, especially if all the people in your organization know what they are, then they can start to say ‘okay, how do we accomplish the kinds of changes we need to change in order to be successful in those areas?'”

To learn more about the importance of long-term planning, and how ‘long-term’ is slowly becoming defined differently, listen to episode 40 of the Mind Your Farm Business podcast, below:

Disclaimer: Royal Bank of Canada and its subsidiaries are not responsible for the information provided in this podcast, and this information does not necessarily reflect the views of Royal Bank of Canada or any of its subsidiaries. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its subsidiaries.

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