As a Business Advisor I have challenged a number of business people to growth, and I have realised that attitude is everything. Commercial farming is possible if we have the right policies, legal framework and infrastructure. However, be that as it may, the presence of those does not guarantee successful commercial farming. There is no better authority in attitudinal development than Stephen Covey, and I see the Seven Habits of highly effective people relevant to farmers to achieve the success.
The farmer must achieve self mastery (private victory) and be clear that he has inside himself what it takes to be a farmer. The self mastery will make him aware of what he can do and what he cannot do, that is where he needs assistance. Farming has become so intense and complicated with technologies coming in that all you know and experienced is not enough. There are changes even in the environmental pollution, both the pollution in the skies and in the soil making farming no longer predictable. To achieve private victory, todays farmer must be Proactive, Begin with the end in mind, and put first things first. The said habits move us from being Dependent to being Independent.
Habit 1 – Be Proactive
old days when the climate and soil were still anything to rely upon, we knew what would happen if you put your seed in the soil, and we knew when it would rain and how much would rain. Today it is different, as one man put it, we are in the VUCA world (Vulnerable, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). We therefore need to be aware of the risks that we could face and develop a framework to mitigate such risks. Some of the strategies we could adopt is to decide to diversify our farming products, different crops in the same season, or scattering our farming across the seasons, or mixing horticulture with animal husbandry etc. There are issues of insurance, or perhaps even joint venture projects so as to share the risks etc. The farmer should not allow to be faced by surprises but must use hindsight (past experiences) to provide insight (today’s expertise) that will help him to create a foresight (tomorrow’s excellence)that brings more predictivity. The farmer who is not proactive will not succeed
Habit 2 – Begin with an End in Mind
Our fathers were engaged in farming simply to meet our daily needs, and had no intention to export and feed the world. I am also aware that through assistance of the British colonial masters Lesotho exported grain to as far as Zimbabwe, but that was very little of a proactive decision to export, it was expediency of overproduction. Today’s commercial farmer should start with massive exportation, developing agro-industries and agri-industries in mind. We need to ensure that we add value to basic crops and make our money in the value chain. When we do begin with that in mind, our processes, our management style, our networks will be different. It is all in the mind, we are what we think, and we can only be big if we start with bigness in our mind from the very beginning.
Habit 3 – Put First things First
The challenge with many farmers is trying to do everything at all time. We need to know what we should do that will directly have impact on our productivity, and identify the habits (routines) that we should daily do to provide leverage and exponentially increase the productivity. Jim Collins, in his book, ‘From Good to Great’ talks about a ‘Flywheel’ effect, in which he says that the great companies achieved greatness by doing simple repeatable processes that like turning a windmill when you do them over and over again the speed of the windmill exponentially grows relative to the amount and force of the pushing. You cannot be a commercial farmer when you have unlimited space of activities, the time you spend on those non value adding activities if it could be spent on your call, imagine what the returns would be. You need to prioritise your daily routines so that you give time first and foremost to the value adding important activities and not be blackmailed by the urgent. Let me repeat it, do the IMPORTANT (directly value adding to the farming) over the URGENT (other activities that are not farming issues). Nothing is actually urgent, we make things urgent in our mind, lets regulate our thinking to achieve private victory.
Farmers need to recognize that they can only be successful if they recognize the importance of the people around them. We are a subject of the company we keep. We need to be able to manage the people we keep so that we obtain positive influence, again that we are able to use them to unlock our potential and grow exponentially as commercial farmers. The ability to use the people around us and to obtain the right people around us, and to terminate unwanted relationships is what is called emotional intelligence. Jim Collins states that great companies recognize the importance of people, and that a company needs to offload the passengers in their bus and obtain new people who enter the bus qualifying to be in the bus. The qualification is mostly the attitude. The buses we drive could be friends, members of our societies in farming, networks, shows we attend, television series, magazines and books we read, contacts we have etc. Stephen Covey says that habits we need to achieve public victory are: Think win/win, Seek first to Understand, than to be understood, Synergy. The habits move you from independent to become interdependent
Habit 4 – Think Win/Win
Farmers have always been leaders, as it requires leadership to be aware that we need to eat and do something about it without being pushed. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if Basotho refused to work in the mines of South Africa and retained their positions to stick to their strengths as farmers. We could be feeding the world today. In fact our fathers actually refused, but Tax was introduced and it was only payable by cash, hence Basotho sent their boys to mines to obtain cash to pay taxes in cash while barter system was allowed for Afrikaner men. That win/Lose situation led us to extreme poverty. Thinking win/win is state of mind or attitude to never engage in cheating either in pricing or mixing your inputs or failing to disclose what needs to be disclosed, or underpaying your workers etc. The state of mind also dictates that you should not lose therefore a win/lose or a lose/win even the lose/lose are not strategies you should pursue. Be fair to all concerned, that is sustainability. The win/win goes beyond just relationships of people but also relationship with the environment and the community. Integrating green technologies and social investments, human rights and ethics are key to sustainability.
Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, than to be Understood.
This habit although placed as number 5, but it needs to come before the ‘win/win’ thinking above. We need our networks, being they workers, members of our societies, suppliers, customers, the public. It is important that we understand their desires to ensure that we receive their sustainable support. We cannot take land from the people where they used to graze their cattle and not agree with alternative solution for them. It is critical that we first demand on us to understand others so that we appropriately shape our understanding and pass it as palatable as it can be to networks so that we receive the desired ‘win/win’.
Habit 6 – Synergise
We need to move from state of Independence to the state of Interdependence so as to grow exponentially and manage the risks. The days of Mr. Likhang working on whole of Ha Nyenye fields alone are gone. We can grow together, and it is the best way, hence need for creative cooperation in our farming projects. Some people have land, some have the money, some have expertise, some have the equipment, and we need to see how we can work together to maximize production efficiently so that we can approach bigger and better markets. The challenge we have today is inability of our horticulture farmers to produce enough to supply even one chain store continuously for the year. I think one way is to incorporate our businesses into companies so that we can have access to cash and competences, thus pool resources and achieve more, at the same time managing risk.
Certainly because of changes in climate and technology, only those who will keep sharpening their saw will be at the top. Jesus stated that ‘we cannot put old wine in the new wine bags, similarly we cannot keep old wine in new wine bags’. We need to be prepared to face the unknown. Stephen Covey in this regard talks about one Habit which is Sharpening the Saw
Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw
The farmer has to read journals such the ‘The Silo’, read books both in technical areas of his farming as well as in business management. He needs to obtain wisdom from Business Advisors such as RL Consulting to obtain greater understanding of business and farming so that his saw is sharper, thus more effective and efficient.
Habits are about the way you think, the way you feel (emotions) and the way you behave (actions) Mind your thinking, because in our thoughts we rewire and recreate ourselves. Mind your emontions, they should be related to your thoughts and your business. Mind your daily actions (routines) they must be related primarily to your vision. I thank you.