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.