Are you in control?

It is important that we revisit & learn from the lessons of the past so we can manage the present more effectively. I was looking through some old articles that I wrote and thought that this one has some good messages for the current seasonal variability. In July 2004, which was a significant dry period, PrincipleFocus surveyed 600 rural clients throughout NSW asking how they were coping with the current drought conditions. The questions and responses are listed below. *Note that this was a Multiple Select question, and responders could select more than one answer. The Percentage refers to the percentage of responders that selected each answer. Questions:

1. Are you in control of your present situation? Answer *Percentage Yes 88% No 13%

2. What put you in control? Answer *Percentage Grazing Chart with critical dates & pasture – stock monitoring 50% Rainfall & price forecasting 27% A drought action plan with critical decision points 21% Monitoring & updating the plan 58% Agreed strategies 65% Stockflow & cashflow forecasts 11% Support from PrincipleFocus 21% Support from peers 26%

3. What would help you feel more in control? Answer *Percentage Training in grazing charts & pasture monitoring 45% Support to develop strategies stockflow & cashflows 36% A drought action plan 11% Support network 36% Coaching from PrincipleFocus 22% Rainfall & price forecasting 43% Those who say they are in control of their present situation are: Working in the areas of their business where they can be effective. They are focusing their energies in strategic areas that enable them to control the situation, instead of the situation controlling them. Conversely, if we focus our time and energy in areas over which we have little or no control then the results are feelings of inadequacy, high stress levels and a loss of control. Stephen Covey describes this phenomenon in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’; “There are some factors over which we have no control; these are contained in our Circle of Concern. Those factors that we can do something about exist in our Circle of Influence. Proactive people spend the majority of their time focusing their efforts in their ‘Circle of Influence’; they work on the things they can do something about. Reactive people on the other hand, focus their efforts in their ‘Circle of Concern’; they focus on problems and circumstances over which they have no control”. When the survey data is analysed an interesting trend emerges; those who say they are in control have focused their time and energy in specific areas. What put them in control? 50 percent identified information obtained from grazing charts and pasture and stock monitoring was vital when setting critical dates for destocking and restocking. By matching stocking rate to carrying capacity they are able to maintain and build their ecological, economic and social capital. 58 percent said that the most important thing to do with a drought action plan is to monitor and updated it. An effective plan is one that is updated and modified then acted upon. Having agreed strategies received the highest score of 65 percent. Communicating with others in a business is an integral part of any strategic process especially during times of pressure and stress. The majority of responders (75 percent) who are in control of their present situation had attended a Business of Farming or similar training course, during which they identified the need to redesign their business for long-term sustainability. How do we define Sustainability? Professor Stuart Hill from the School of Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney; Hawkesbury campus defines Sustainable Agriculture as; “Agriculture is sustainable when it meets its production goals while maintaining or improving its natural and social capital resource bases. The key to designing natural capital is to build up and maintain natural capital and live off the interest”. Those responders who weren’t in control of their present situation identified the following as useful tools and processes to enable them to feel more in control. Training in grazing chart and pasture monitoring. Support to develop management strategies. A support network These areas are all in the Circle of Influence, they enable us to be proactive and be in control of the situation, instead of the situation controlling us. It is interesting, 48 percent identified rainfall and price forecasting as important in regaining control, an area that fits in the Circle of Concern. A well-designed business is one that builds its natural, economic and social capital regardless of the external situations. When we accept the fact that climatic and market fluctuations are a part of the environment that we work in, then and only then, is it possible to re-design and be in control of your business.

Written by Richard Groom, Director PF Agribusiness Find our information on our Farm Business Audit.