The 8 mistakes that keep farmers broke

The 8 mistakes that keep farmers broke

Here at Farm Owners Academy, we’ve worked with all kinds of farmers over the years:

  • Rich ones
  • Broke ones
  • Ones who feel real joy and purpose in their work
  • Startups
  • Experienced farmers

And…ones who spend every day stressed out, burnt out, and zoned out because they’re too overwhelmed to really connect.

When I look at the most successful farms (the top 20%) and the least successful, there’s one big difference:

The most successful think like business owners. The least successful think like farmers.

This subtle difference shows up in 8 key ways.

Keep reading to learn what they are and how to make the switch from farmer to business owner — to experience more profit, more control, and more freedom on your farm.

Work in the weeds vs. Work in the trees

I grew up on a farm so I know the “hard work” culture that’s ingrained in farmers from the start.

And don’t get me wrong, hard work is a beautiful, noble thing. I have so much respect for the farmers who are out in the field, doing hard jobs seven days a week. That’s how Dad was.

But as a businessman, I also know the dangers in that.

Think about your favourite team. There’s one person responsible for the success of that team…and it’s not the star player.

The coach is the puppeteer behind it all. He’s the one making training plans, finding the right players with the right skills for the right positions, and keeping everyone playing at a world-class level.

Great farm owners do the same. They move from being a technician to being a strategist. They step out of the weeds and take a 30,000-foot view from the treetops, to maximise how everything works together.

Related: Run Your Farm Like a Professional AFL Team

Do it all yourself vs. build a great team

Going back to our soccer analogy…

What if the coach fired all his players and tried to play every position himself? About three minutes in, he’d be losing beyond hope.

Not to mention, he’d be so exhausted that he’d never have time to think about strategy, growth, or any of the other pieces a coach needs to direct success.

If you’re doing everything on your farm, you’re the overworked coach.

Top farm owners don’t try to do it all. Instead, they hire clever people to create a well-rounded team.

This thinking enables them to make money off others. As John D Rockefeller said, “I would rather earn 1% off 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.”

We have a great podcast episode about trading the $25/hour jobs for the $500/hour jobs on your farm. When you bring on qualified team members to handle the $25/hour jobs, you can move up to the leadership role and operate at the business-owner level.

Busy vs. productive

If you ask the average farmer how he’s going, he’ll tell you he’s “busy”. But what about the most successful farm owners?

They’ll say they’re “productive”.

Top farm owners know the difference between the tasks that matter and the distractions. They don’t fluff around doing things that are not aligned with their goals and can easily brush away distractions when they arise.

Top farm owners FOCUS (Focus on One Course Until Successful) on just ONE thing at a time. They know multitasking is a myth and if you try and chase two rabbits at once, you’ll catch neither. It’s much more productive to pursue one goal until it’s achieved…then move on to the next.

Figure it out yourself vs. leverage others’ knowledge

Most farmers have an internal drive to look good to their peers. After all, everyone likes to be seen as capable and successful.

But the top 20% of farm owners? They’re very comfortable asking for help and admitting they don’t know it all. They invest enormously in self-education.

From reading books, to listening to podcasts, to going to courses, to hiring coaches and mentors — successful business owners know that one of their greatest sources of leverage is other people’s knowledge.

Learning from others is far more effective than trying to figure out everything yourself. (Many of the farmers inside our Take Control say learning from one another is the most powerful part of the program.)

And they enjoy being the dumbest person in the room! They like surrounding themselves with people that know more than they do — because they know that’s the biggest shortcut to success.

Live on autopilot vs. manage their mindset

There’s something beautiful about working with your hands and being out in nature. It’s probably one of the main reasons you became a farmer in the first place.

But there’s so much more to a successful farm than just the physical stuff.

Top business owners understand the power of positive vibration. They might not understand how or why it works, but know that when they feel good and their mindset is right, things on the farm start to flow. In contrast, when they feel crappy, more problems seem to come into their lives.

That’s why they seek out books, mentors, videos, podcasts, music, etc. that keep them feeling positive. They pay attention to what they’re putting into their eyes, ears, and minds and only choose the good stuff.

Successful business owners are also quick to recognise when they enter a negative vibration. They know being in a bad mood won’t help anything, so they take responsibility to change state to get back into their positive vibe.

Super serious vs. Fun and joyful

Farmers are some of the hardest-working people on the planet. But the top 20% of farm owners have loads of fun along the way.

Life is short. And I’m pretty sure none of us wants to look back and say, “I worked damn hard…and that’s about all I had time for.”  We want to enjoy our time here.

The most successful farm owners turn business into a game. They play to win, but always play because they enjoy it. They find the joy in the journey and make it as fun as possible. They know that’s the secret to showing up every day motivated, bringing that high vibe, and staying committed for the long haul.

Remember, as the owner of your farm, you’re in control — so design work to be fun! Hire team members to cover your weak areas and handle the jobs you don’t like. Respect the journey and find the joy.

Just dive in vs. make a plan

Almost all farmers struggle with time management and simply dive into work every morning. As a result, one week blends into the next, one year blends into the next, and nothing ever changes.

In contrast, ALL of the successful business owners I know make and follow a strategic business plan.

One reason I was able to create 2 million-dollar companies was that I took the time to plan. (More on this story next week…)

I knew what my goals looked like and exactly what I needed to do to get there. Once I had my plan in place, all I had to do was implement it.

If you don’t have a planning system in your business, my suggestion is to get one or go and get a job. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it’s honestly my best advice! Without it, you’ll keep treading water in your farm and never move forward.

Creating your business plan is a small investment of time that creates a huge amount of flow throughout the year. It will help you move forward in a really controlled and powerful manner.

Need help creating your plan? It’s the perfect place to start.

Speed up vs. slow down

Most farmers believe that more, bigger, and faster is better. So they keep working at a breakneck pace, afraid that if they slow down, they’ll lose momentum.

But top farm owners know the exact opposite is true.

Slowing down in the short-term can help you speed up in the long-term.

Picture a runner who’s suffering from shin splints. He keeps pushing himself…but what he doesn’t realise is that he actually has a hairline fracture causing the pain. Continuing to run makes the fracture worse and eventually causes a major injury.

Instead, the runner could choose to slow down. He could visit a doctor, take a few weeks off for physio, heal his bones and strengthen his muscles. And when he gets back onto the race track, he’ll be stronger and faster than ever.

…All because he slowed down.

I’ve witnessed incredible results when business owners slowed down to take stock of what’s happening.

When they took their foot off the accelerator and made time to…

  • Get clear on their goals
  • Create a strategic business plan
  • Hire a new team member
  • Learn from an event or a course
  • Get their mindset right

…They took time to do the most important work.

That’s what a CEO does. That’s what the most successful farm owners do. And that’s what YOU need to do, if you want to be in the top 20% of farm owners.

I know these ideas may be very different than what you’re used to, especially if you’re currently doing all the work on your farm yourself.

All I ask is that you have an open mind…

To learn from the experience of farmers who have achieved a lot of success by doing things differently…

And start thinking about the ways you can apply these lessons to your farm.

Next week, I’ll share the story of David, a farmer who had his most successful year financially…while cutting his work hours in HALF (from 60 hours to 30 hours). He never would have believed it was possible, but he had an open mind to try doing things differently.

David made three big changes in his farm to achieve these results. If you’re stuck in the 60-hour per week cycle, keep an eye out for David’s story next week to see how he did it.

I’ll also be releasing a brand new FREE training “A 3-Step System You Can Use To Create A Highly Profitable Farm… Giving You More Time And Financial Freedom”.

If you’re not already on the email list, click here to be notified when the training goes live. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!

The 7-step plan to higher profits on the farm

The 7-step plan to higher profits on the farm

“How do I make more money on my farm?”


That’s got to be the top question farmers ask us.


It’s up there with…

How do I get more time off?

How can I increase yields?


How can I strike a deal with the weather gods for great rainfall this season?


Whether you dream of buying more land, going on an extra holiday, or paying for a great boarding school for your kids, more money is definitely a good thing.


Here’s what I want you to know:


More profitability does NOT mean working more hours!


Most farmers think that making more money is impossible, because they’re already working as hard as they can. But the truth is, it’s not about how many hours you work — it’s about WHAT you’re working on during those hours. That determines how profitable you are.


Keep reading for 7 simple-but-powerful ways to make more profit on your farm…without working any more hours.



Stop working on the $25/hour jobs


It might sound counterintuitive…


But the fastest way to become more profitable on your farm is to stop doing the work.


Let me explain…


A mentor of mine once said, “You won’t get rich cleaning the house.”


Yes, the house needs to be cleaned. And yes, taking care of your home is an important job. But you’re not going to get rich doing it.


Here’s the reality:


80% of the work on a farm is technical work that’s valued between $20-$30/hour.


These are the jobs like fencing, driving the tractor, crutching and drenching, branding cattle, and cleaning.


These jobs are important and need to get done. But they’re never going to make you rich…no matter how great you are at them.


Related: Why doing the technical work on your farm is costing you a lot of profit


When you stop spending time on the low-income jobs, you free yourself up for the $500/hour work. (More on this in a minute.)


If you think you can’t afford to hire help or that you need to do it all yourself, I hear you. But stick with me. I think you’ll start to see why you can’t afford not to hire someone, if you want to run a highly profitable farm…



Make time for the big-money tasks


Most farmers are so busy with the low-level technical jobs on the farm, they simply have no time or energy for the high-level work, like: 

  • Strategic planning
  • Creating systems for efficiency
  • Looking for opportunities
  • Negotiating
  • Creating new markets
  • Marketing and direct selling
  • Training your team
  • Working on genetics
  • Optimising your farm for efficiency


This is the $500/hour work.


Let’s look at a really simple example of how this plays out…


You could work 40 hours a week doing $25/hour tasks, to make $1000.


You could hire a farmhand to do those 40 hours of work for a cost of $1000.


You now have capacity to work on $500/hour tasks.


Imagine what would happen if you spend just a few hours every week moving from $25/hour to $500/hour work. You could easily make an extra $475 every week, just by trading ONE hour of $25/hour jobs for $500/hour work!


Top farm owners spend 80% of their time on $500/hour tasks.


Make that your goal and focus on small steps every week to get there.



Create a strategic business plan


Let’s pretend it’s your anniversary next month and you want to plan a surprise holiday for your wife.


You make a plan of everything that needs to be done, like: 

  • Pick dates for the trip
  • Choose location
  • Book flights
  • Make hotel reservations
  • Research great things to do and places to eat in the area

And because of that planning, you enjoy a lovely trip together, soaking up the sun and getting some much-needed relaxation.


Related: How Tim and Cheryl are working with Farm Owners Academy to create a freedom farm


When it comes to holidays, most of us are good at making plans. But very few farmers have strategic business plans for their farms.


The top 20% of farm owners plan their days, months, and years.


They decide on their goals — the BIG ones, like where they want the farm to be 10 years from now — and then work backwards to map out what they need to do to achieve them.


This process of starting with the end in mind and mapping everything back to today is called strategic planning.


Top farm owners create strategic business plans and update them every quarter, or 90 days. It’s a way to keep the forward momentum moving…and eliminate the daily decisions that waste so much time.


We created a strategic planning tool called the Farm Operating System (FOS). It helps you break down your 10-year goals and map them back to what you need to do in the next 90-days to keep you on track.


Click here to download your strategic planning template for free

Track your numbers

Peter Drucker, the founder of modern business management, said:

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

That’s why tracking your numbers is a key part of the Take Control Program… and all the growth work we do with farmers.

If you want to do things like:

  • Make higher profit per item
  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Speed up growing cycles
  • Increase crop yields

…You have to start by tracking your numbers.


A pilot uses a series of dials in their cockpit to help them make informed decisions. Tracking your farm’s numbers is like checking in with your dials to make profitable decisions.


If you don’t track your numbers, you could be wasting time and energy on an area on your farm that just isn’t profitable — instead of maximising the returns on a highly profitable area of the farm.


Profitable farmers make decisions based on data. Not gut feelings, not wild guesses, but tangible proof.





The latest numbers flying around the internet estimate that an adult makes about 35,000 decisions every day.


When you’re ineffective at making decisions, you waste time. You have too many things going on in your mind, which causes you to procrastinate, because you’re not sure what to do.


But not all decisions are created equal.


There are three main types of decisions:

  • Major: life-changing decisions (e.g. marriage, buying a new farm)
  • Medium: cost a bit of money and time (e.g. hiring a team member, buying a new tractor)
  • Minor: largely irrelevant (e.g. what colour your logo should be)


Profitable farm owners only invest their time in the major and medium decisions. They do their research, they look at the data, they ask for advice from mentors and business leaders they respect. And then they make informed decisions.


For minor ones? They make fast decisions and stick with those decisions once made.


…Then they get back to working on the $500/hour tasks and making things happen.



Master negotiation skills


Profit = Revenue – Costs


One way to make higher profits is to increase revenue (or sales). Another is to reduce costs.


That’s where negotiation comes in.


Negotiating to reduce costs or increase margins is a very effective strategy to maximise profits. With just one phone call, you can add hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to your bottom line each month. But most farmers never even try!


Here are a few things you can negotiate:

  • Better prices for goods you purchase
  • Better prices for goods you sell
  • Better margins if you use agents
  • More hours or outputs out of your team members
  • Better deals from your off farm investments

Don’t be afraid to start the negotiation conversation. There is almost always room for a better price, if you ask. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never get it. 


Not comfortable negotiating? No problem. It’s a skill that can be learned. Click here for a great template and training on how to negotiate.



Operate like a business owner, NOT a farmer


Lindsay Fox (who runs Fox Trucks and has a personal net worth of $2.91 billion) got into the trucking business because his father was a truck driver.


When Lindsay was asked, “So, are you like your father?”


He replied, “No. Dad drove a truck. I owned my first one and got someone else to drive it.


This sums up the difference between a farmer and a farm business owner.


Business owners act like the manager of a sports team — managing the players, developing the skills, and creating the strategies to win games.


A business owner operates at a different level, doing things like: 

  • Designing great systems to run their farms
  • Hiring and training and leading great people
  • Tracking the important numbers
  • Creating a strategic business plan
  • Making informed decisions to lead the farm forward
  • Looking for new opportunities (buying land, negotiating better terms, leasing land, etc.)  

The top 20% of farmers look at themselves as business owners. That mindset shift is what leads to such high levels of success for their farms.


Related: The 8 Mistakes that keep farmers broke


If this list of 7 things feels overwhelming, remember, you don’t have to tackle everything at once.


Pick just ONE of these strategies to test out on your farm and watch as your profits increase week by week.

Negotiation Skills Training

Negotiation Skills Training

In This Session …

  • Learn why negotiation is so important and that we are negotiating every day
  • Understand how to reach compromise instead of resolution and find a win-win every time
  • How to help someone really understand what it is you want and why its a must for them to help you get it
  • We uncover an amazing template to turn you into a negotiation master
Download the template here



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