Rayner Reckons

Jun 11

Do your capabilities match your ambitions?

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2015

In the last few weeks I have had four conversations with producers who are incredibly enthusiastic about a new plan.  The plans were all different of course, but the enthusiasm was very similar.  I love enthusiasm, and I am incredibly passionate about aiming for a goal.  But!  There are times when I do wonder, if the plan is realistic!

No doubt you have seen business coaches, life, coaches and other people sharing inspirational advice.  Its not uncommon to see them as a motivational quote.  You know the sort of thing, "Dream big" or "The only thing holding you back is yourself". There's nothing wrong with these motivations.  It is vital to aim at goals and work towards them.  

Having said that, dreams don't just happen! In a business, your ambitions are realised through hard work, through focussing on achieving targets, and on ensuring your capabilities meet your ambitions!

One of the discussions I had last week focussed on producing cattle to meet a certain market specification.  The specification was pretty tight for weight and fat.  Underpinning that requirement was the need for the cattle to be certified as PCAS.  The top price on offer was almost $1.00/kg carcase weight above the normal rate.  It was a really attractive option, and if you could produce cattle that met the certification requirements and more importantly hit the specification, the return was going to be significant.

However, there were a few issues.  the most easily resolved was gaining PCAS certification.  It required some paperwork and a bit of homework, but the effort involved was more than offset by the potential market opportunities.

The bigger issue was simply to do with the cattle that the producer owned, and the feeding regime the cattle were on. 

Quite simply the cattle were never going to hit the specification for weight and fat.  Most of them would have been too lean at the weight, and the grid discount for under finished cattle was pretty big.

At the same time the cattle were grazing a feed that was declining in quality, and were not gaining the weight needed to finish in time.  They really needed a supplement to get the best use from the feed, but the options for the producer are limited by the PCAS requirements and the availability of supplements.  

So there were a few things going wrong.  The cattle, the feed and the restrictions of the program meant that the ambition to produce to that market wasn't going to happen easily.  

The discussion I had with the producer was really interesting.  The conversation started with the disappointment that was felt by the producer over the whole process.  They felt they had wasted their time and there was some blame being levelled for that. Blame on themselves for wasting time and more interestingly, for listening to the wrong advice.  The comment was "I should have never listened to them.."  and "they said that.."

I'm not sure who these mysterious advisors are.  I have a sneaking suspicion that advice was given by a range of people, from neighbours, agents, articles in the paper and perhaps a drinking mate in the local pub!  

I have learnt that people listen with half an ear to things, often hearing what they want to hear.  If it is a way to get more money, or in this care to chase a more lucrative market, the listening is often filtered through this filter of "getting more money".

The other conversation that stood out this week was with a producers wanting to complain about a market price at auction for steers sent to a show.  The issue was a poor return and that it wasn't fair to see a low price for these animals after all the hard work that had been done to prepare them.  It was an interesting conversation!  Again, the issue was a bit more complex.  The steers in question were under weight, had little fat cover and weren't really ready for the market.  However the exhibitor had been told, that by preparing them and taking them to the show, the returns at the sale "shouldn't be too bad.."

That advice had come from someone who hadn't actually seen the exhibitors steers, didn't know the weight of the steers or even what they were going to be shown for.  Yet the exhibitor accepted their advice and as result had a disappointing experience as a result!  Again there was a lot of self blame for listening to bad advice and for asking the wrong people for input.

So what do you make of those experiences.  I guess there are a few things.  Firstly, if you are embarking on a new plan or working for an ambition you hold dearly, you need to be realistic about your capabilities.  Can you really achieve that outcome with the resources you currently have to hand?  Do your cattle really suit that market?  Are your pastures really up to that level of production?  Does that certification restrict you too much?

A more deeper question is what are you trying to achieve?  If you want to make more returns and better profits, is there another way, that uses your resources efficiently and effectively?  Can your ambitions and capabilities be more aligned in a different way?

I also have to ask, who are you getting advice from?  If you are getting advice from someone who doesn't know what they are talking about, then really, what do you expect?

Just owning cows isn't always a qualification!  Can your advisor explain the challenges and opportunities for your business. Have they looked at your animals and pastures?  Do they really understand your system?  Do they actually understand the market, or is it just pub talk?  So many people talk a lot of rubbish that they have half heard or over heard in the pub / cafe / saleyards.  

I reckon most people wouldn't make business decisions on gossip.  Equally I don't think you would ask for computer repair advice from a plumber!  So if you are looking for advice to help you match up your capabilities and your ambitions look for someone who actually can come and give you what you need.

Don't be afraid to invest in the right advice.  Part of the disappointment in the conversations I had this week was a level of regret for lost income, lost opportunity, and more importantly for lost time and resources.  Investing in the right advice at the right time would have made a big difference for both of these producers.  I reckon free advice isn't always good advice.  And when you lose money, you will always be further from your ambitions!




  

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