These business lessons could’ve helped my dad’s farm

These business lessons could’ve helped my dad’s farm

The biggest fear for most farmers? (and for most people in general?)

Failure.

The thought of giving it your all but still not making the cut terrifies a lot of people.

I guess I’m not like most people in this respect. Because I’m quite open about the fact that I’ve had a few failed businesses over my career. Or, as I like to call them, “learning experiences.” 🙂

That’s because the failures taught me powerful lessons that eventually allowed me to build and sell two million-dollar companies.

Albert Einstein once said, “Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.”

When I strip back my million-dollar businesses, I can see three simple elements as the foundation of their success.

I wish I could go back in time and teach these lessons to Dad. They would have had an instrumental effect on his farming business and I know they would have helped him have a better quality of life, too.

But until someone invents a time machine, I’m happy to use these lessons to get YOUR farm on the path to becoming a success.

The best part is you can implement every one of these lessons in your farming business TODAY — no specialised tools or skill sets required. I’m following my mate Albert’s lead and keeping things nice and simple.

Here are the 3 biggest lessons behind my two million-dollar companies:

Lesson 1: If you don’t believe in you, no one else will.

One of the things that helped grow my first million-dollar business was a piece of advice from my business coach.

At that point, things weren’t going well…to say the least. I’d bought a franchise but had no clients. I was $350K in debt. I saw no way out and I was DESPERATE. It was like I had a bad odour about me; no one wanted to work with me.

Something my coach said at this time completely changed my life…

“Until you believe in you, no one else will.”

He was right. I was working hard and putting so much pressure on myself. But because I had that little voice inside telling me I wasn’t good enough, I was never going to succeed.

That was a painful realisation for me.

I would have done anything to help my failing business. So when my coach suggested some mindset tools and strategies, I was skeptical…but hey, I was willing to try.

(If you’re not keen on mindset, bear with me. Because when you hear how it turns out, I think you’ll be willing to try it too…)

I worked very hard on two things:

  1. Letting go. I had to find acceptance with my current reality of being $350K in debt and stop panicking all the time. I focused more on what I did have and what I was grateful for than what I didn’t have.

     

  2. My mindset. I had to trick myself into believing in myself. I had to rewire my brain to believe that I could be successful and that “what I say to myself about myself when I am by myself is what matters most”.

    Related: Mindset Determines Everything

I set a timer to go off every hour to notice what I was thinking about. If it was a negative thought, I’d replace it with the vision of what I wanted to see in my life and my business.

Within two months of really working on improving my mindset, I had 20 paying clients in my business. I was actually one of the top billing coaches in the franchise. All in two months!

(And two years later, my business partner and I owned 15 other franchises. We had a team of 20 great people working for us. And we were doing $3.6 million a year.) 

I can track ALL the success back to the work I did on myself. It’s amazing what a huge shift came from that one decision to take responsibility and improve my mindset.

Many of the farmers in the Take Control Program are surprised at how powerful the mindset work is to their successes, too. They never knew how important it was until they started seeing tangible results in their businesses…and now they’ll never go without it.

Now I grew up through a number of droughts…and far out it affected my Dad.  Dad sadly didn’t have any control over the weather, but he did have control over his mindset, and If only he knew how powerful this was, he just might have been able to get through the drought with a little less stress.

Lesson 2: The more you learn, the more you earn

One of the best things I ever did for my business was so easy, it felt like cheating (but it totally wasn’t!)

I stopped trying to figure out everything for myself and started looking to others who were already doing what I wanted to do.

I found the most successful business owners in my space — the smart ones who were achieving incredible things — and I watched them.

I paid attention to what they were doing and then implemented the tactics that worked in my own business.

I got mentoring from a few of them, too, and also bought courses that they put out. I soaked up as much knowledge as I could from the people who were at a level above me.

…And I saw massive business growth as a result.

Many farmers don’t spend enough time learning from other successful farmers.

Dad didn’t.  He was brought up to believe that he had to figure everything out.  So he just worked harder when things got tough.  This is probably what lead to Dad being forced to sell the farm at a younger age.  The stress got to him, and he was over it.

Find someone doing better than you than copy them! At school, we call this cheating, but in business, we call it “market research”. It’s 100% allowed.

Imagine there’s a farmer in your niche that makes over $1m a year in net profit (even in bad years). Wouldn’t you agree that if you interviewed them, they might give you some ideas on how you could do it better?

Learning from others a step ahead of you is one of the most under-utilised strategies out there. You don’t have to do it all yourself! In fact, you shouldn’t.

Smart business owners know that LEARN comes before EARN. So they invest the time and resources to learn the skills that give them the edge.

They never stop learning and are always looking for ways to do things better.

Lesson 3: Clarity is power

I spent many years NOT being clear on what I wanted…and getting terrible results. (Remember those “learning experience” businesses??)

But with my 2 million-dollar companies, I was crystal clear on where I wanted to go and exactly what I needed to do to get there.

Creating and following a strategic business plan is the best way I know to guarantee a successful business.

It’s a practical way to map out the steps to take you from TODAY to your dream. It’s logic-based, which is great for those of us who are analytical thinkers and like everything laid out in black and white.

The process is simple:

  • Start by visualising what you want your business to look like 10 years from now. What does that goal look like?
  • Now work backwards from that vision. What will you need to achieve in 3 years to stay on track to reach your goal?
  • What will you need to achieve in the next 12 months?
  • And finally…what do you need to do in the next 90 days to stay the course?

It’s very easy to get tricked or distracted into doing work that won’t move you towards your vision. Your strategic plan keeps you on the bridge of discipline, doing the things that get you to your goals.

Once you have your 90-day plan, all you have to do is implement it. It gives you a clear roadmap to follow — just focus on it daily and execute to reach the finish line.

I get more done in 90 days than many can in 12 months. It’s all thanks to the plan…and does the thinking for you.

Clarity requires thinking, and this is why so few farmers engage in it — because it is hard work. It’s easier to wake up and just dive in.

But once you do it (set the goals, make the plan, learn how to focus on what needs to be done) you’ll have everything you need to succeed.

Click here to download our Clarity Action Plan template to create your own strategic business plan.

Bonus tip: Become a business owner

This is a lesson that I learned a few years into my business journey.

When I started out, I was so busy working IN my business (doing all the day-to-day tasks) that I never worked ON my business.

I see so many farmers making the same mistake.

You’ve spent years learning how to be a farmer (maybe even decades) and you have a very specialised set of skills, right?

But I bet none of those farming skills help you run a profitable business.

That’s because running a business is a completely different skill set. You wouldn’t say, “I know how to farm so I know how to perform brain surgery,” would you? It’s the same with business.

I’ve seen many farmers get down on themselves if they don’t achieve the financial success they expected to. They think they’re not working hard enough, they feel like they’re not smart enough or capable enough. But the truth is…you never learned how to be a business owner.

The good news is that business is a skill that can be learned. And once you learn the skill, you can apply it in many different areas, if you want to. (Richard Branson runs 7 $1billion companies, including music and air travel. He’s definitely not an expert musician or pilot…but he’s an expert businessman.)

To generate million-dollar profits, you need to step away from being a farmer and start being a farm business owner. It’s a small distinction but it makes ALL the difference.

Here are a few things that business owners know about that farmers don’t:

  • Marketing
  • Leading
  • Hiring
  • Delegating
  • Systemising the business
  • Reading financials
  • Project management
  • Planning
  • Negotiating
  • Strategising

Once you combine the skill of being a great farmer, with the skill of being a great business owner — look out!

Business doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s best when it’s not.

The most powerful lessons that led to my two million-dollar businesses are also the most simple:

  • Believe in yourself, or no one else will
  • Learn from others who are doing it better than you
  • Get clear on your goals and map out a 90-day plan

But it’s not enough to just think. If you’re serious about growing your farm to seven-figure profits, you have to ACT.

Choose one of the lessons and commit to making it happen. I’ve given you tangible suggestions in this blog post — pick just ONE and run with it this week.

I know if Dad did, he just might be still farming today….

And make sure to register for our free online training!

David had his most profitable year…while working 50% less. Here’s how he did it.

David had his most profitable year…while working 50% less. Here’s how he did it.

When I tell farmers it’s possible to:

  • Earn more
  • Work less
  • And actually enjoy the process

     

…They look at me like I have six heads (and maybe half a brain between all six of them!)


Then they start to tell me all the reasons why that can’t possibly be true for them. They think because I wear a suit and have a business background that I don’t understand the ins and outs of the farming industry.


That’s where they’re wrong.

I grew up on a wool farm in NSW and watched my dad work himself to the bone and eventually burn out. I know what the reality of being a farmer looks like all too well.


And for the last 3 years, I’ve been business partners with Greg Johnsson, a lifelong farmer with decades of experience.


At Farm Owners Academy, we’ve helped many farmers
maximise the profitability of their farms by applying the same business practices giants like Apple and Virgin use.

Greg and I know it’s possible to work less and make more. But I know that you don’t know that yet.

So today, I want to share David’s story with you.

David is a farmer from Kangaroo Island who thought I had six heads and half a brain when I first told him all this, too.

But by opening his mind, listening to our ideas, and testing out the strategies, David was able to go from working 60 hours a week to 30 hours a week on the farm…while having his best financial year yet. AND he was able to take a holiday with his family during the busiest time of the year.

The secret to David’s success came down to three key things.

But first, a little bit about David…

Busy, overworked, and nearing burnout.

David believed that:

  • In order to get ahead, you have to work harder than anybody else.
  • If there’s a job that needs doing, just do it.
  • If you aren’t working hard, you aren’t really good enough.

     

Which is exactly what happened to David…

When David first become a farmer, he was very busy.

He quite prided himself on working big hours. If he ever finished up his list of jobs, he would look for more work, find something else to do. He liked the hardship of it all. Being really rugged and tough out on the farm made him feel kind of invincible.

Because he was so busy, David never stopped to reflect on what tasks were the best use of his time. He thought as long as he was working hard, the farm would be successful…because that’s what he’d always believed.

But his results definitely didn’t support that belief.

The farm wasn’t financially successful. David needed to make more money…but had no more hours to give.

Working such long days also meant David didn’t have enough time for his wife Becky and their three young children. He was afraid that if he kept up his workaholic pace, he’d miss their entire childhood.

That’s what led David to Greg and I, and to our mentoring program, then it all started to change…

Here are the three things that changed David’s farm forever:

 

1. Plan the week and focus on the *right* things


It’s easy to get faked out by being busy. But in reality, it’s not just about how much you do, it’s about how much you do of the right stuff.

At first, David thought that planning and office work was a waste of time. He felt guilty and thought if he wasn’t out working then he wasn’t being productive.

But here’s what he learned:

It’s not about managing your time. It’s about managing your priorities.

There are so many things to get done on the farm. When you write everything down, you can compare all your tasks and prioritise the most important ones.

David asked himself, “What am I so busy doing all day long? And do those things really make a difference?”

He mapped out his jobs and realised that he was spending most of his time on the wrong ones.

When David started to focus on the high-priority activities, the farm’s profitability significantly improved. (Click here to learn more about the $25/hour vs. $500/hour farm tasks.)

It also allowed him to get his hours down, because he stopped wasting time on the tasks that didn’t produce a lot of results.

David now embraces office time and always plans his week out in advance. He knows it is an essential step in managing his profitable farming business.
 

2. Hire (the right) help

While prioritising his tasks, David realised something important…

The strategy, the planning, the mission of the farm: those were all things only David could do and needed his specialised skills. But there were many day-to-day tasks that David could easily train someone else to do.

He knew he needed to start thinking like a business owner, not a farmer. And a business owner would hire help.

Because he was focused on maximising profitability, David first saw hiring someone as a cost he couldn’t really afford. (This is what most people think when they consider hiring help.)

But then David realised he couldn’t afford to NOT hire someone. He had a wake-up call that he’d never make a lot of profit if he stayed trapped doing $20 to $30 per hour work. He’d have to stop sleeping, stop seeing his family, and somehow fit another 24 hours into the day to make the kind of money he wanted working for $25/hour.

So David set out to hire someone to do the lower value tasks.

He found a great farm hand, educated him through systems and training, and discovered how to maximise his productivity on the tasks that made the biggest difference to the farm’s finances.

Hiring help was the ONLY way David could cut down from 60 hours a week to 30. Training someone else to do the lower-value tasks allowed him to enjoy more time with his wife and young kids. 

3. Shift your mindset 

The final thing David did to upgrade his farming business was to give himself permission to stop working so hard.

This was a real challenge because there’s a paradigm in farming that you need to sacrifice a lot of things in order to succeed. David had been trapped in this cycle for a long time.

But deep down, he knew that working 60+ hours a week and never taking time for his family wasn’t the life he wanted.

In the Take Control Program, we challenged him to think differently.

The Dalai Lama said it so well:

“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Sick of this paradigm, David gave himself permission to:

  • Allow time for health (one of his biggest priorities).
  • Come home and enjoy his three kids growing up.
  • Make a lot of money without working 12-hour days.
  • Have a holiday.
  • Let the business wait.

     

This new mindset (which David admits was challenging at first) was what allowed him to make the changes to have his most profitable year ever on the farm.

He needed to believe that he was allowed to work smarter, not harder — to make money without sacrificing his life — in order for all the other steps to work.

This paradigm shift also brought his family so much closer together. He now prioritises spending time with his wife and his kids. And he actually has energy when he comes home from work…whereas before, he was too exhausted do anything.

David also took his family away to the Sunshine Coast in QLD for a holiday — when the year before he was totally trapped by his farm — which made him feel so proud and fulfilled.

And this was all on top of the most successful year he has seen in farming (from a financial perspective).

As a result of those three things — prioritising his tasks, hiring help, and changing his paradigm — David completely changed his farm.

On the surface, he now has more of the big two: more money and more time.

But there’s so much more…

David now has more energy, more health, and more connection with his family. That has a ripple effect, as it’s carried back into being a happier, better leader for his business.

When you take control of your farm, truly everyone wins.

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