“Magical People”

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“It’s our people that make the difference.”
“Customer Service is our competitive advantage.”
“Our farm market people are the best.”
“Our CSA box packers are magical.” Magical People.

It sounds so good, doesn’t it? Corporate America would have us believe that every person in their vast army of workers is so wonderful no one could assail their positions in the market place. Yet somehow, those very same companies struggle against the tide of turnover and seem to launch endless sales to keep the cash-flow flowing.

Who are these Magical People?
Magical People come in all shapes sizes and positions within organizations. They seem to get the job done, be successful, grow the organization, take care of business, and outperform those around them. Eventually, they seem to magically make themselves irreplaceable. They take on more tasks and push themselves to the limit for the business.

Do Magical People work for you?
Is there anyone on your staff right now, family or employee, without whom you feel you couldn’t run the business? “If Karen left the payroll office, we’d be lost nest week.”
“If Jesus, stopped stocking the market, we’d have a disaster on our hands.”
“If Dan left for a week in harvest season, we’d be sunk.”
“No one can set-up a farmers market like Jodi.”

 

Are you Magical?
As business owners, we are likely the first Magical Person on the payroll. We do everything, still do everything and when someone else doesn’t do things right, we jump in a magically fix things ourselves. I am notoriously BAD at letting our register operators engage the guests. I’ve even jumped into a conversation, uninvited, because I was going to be “better” at it with my “Magical Abilities”. Ever do that yourself?Do you have a Magical Business?

The worse case scenario is that your entire business is magical, meaning that if the Magician steps away for an instant, POOF! It’s gone.The elusive hunt for Magical People looks like this: 

“Kid’s these days aren’t as good as they used to be.” Where those kids magical? 
“We just need to find the right [Magical] person and all our marketing troubles will go away.” 
“If only I find the right woman, then I won’t feel so bad about myself.” Searching for the Magical bride? Magic does not equal healthy.

It’s fine to have Magical People helping your run your Magical Business, but it’s not healthy. If fact, it is remarkably unstable. If a Magical Person gets sick, you’re in trouble. If you want a vacation, the business is in trouble. If you want to grow your business, you can, right up to the limit of what you and your Magical Staff can possibly handle in tasks, phone calls, tours, and exhaustion. Depending on magic means you have severe limitations.When Magical People move on.

In my life on the farm we’ve lost 5 indispensable people, and we’re still here. My Dad is 72 and is absolutely Magical, but we’ll be replacing him within the next 20 years, almost for sure.

False belief in Magical People.
They don’t exist. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Magical People don’t exist. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can move on from your childhood belief in Magical People. It’s time to pull back the curtain and see what’s behind those magical tricks.

Behind the curtain.
Pull back the curtain and what you’ll find is that the only magic people bring is the ability to create good operating procedures and behaviors to get themselves through the day and the work successfully. That’s it.

Don’t for a minute think that I’m raining on the parade of magical actions you’ve taken, magical sacrifices you’ve made.
You are magnificent! It’s just time to move on and grow your business, build your team from a group of wannabe magicians who wonder daily, “How does she do it?”, into a team with full access to your bag of tricks.That’s what the Agritourism Manager Boot Camp is all about,

and while we’d love for you to join us for an 8-Week Adventure in creating your own employee system, I’m going to tell you what needs to be done, so you could do it on your own.

Step 1. The real magic in is the process.
Magic example: Why is Jesse so good with the party guests? 

Jesse’s process behind the magic:
A. He knows what he’s doing. He’s hosted parties with Hugh, by his side, and he know exactly what to do.
B. Jesse listens to the kids and the mom to see that they are having fun.
C. Jesse serves food and drinks at the right time so no one is waiting or wondering what’s happening.
D. If there’s a problem, Jesse smiles and instantly fixes it. He has authority to make things right.
E. Jesse keeps things moving. Dead time is NOT fun time, so he keeps things going!

In the Boot Camp, you are hiring us to
coach you through a process, hold you accountable to completing that process and deliver the templates to make the process of creating your employee management system as easy as possible, but we’re not doing magic.
 
You can do this for yourself if you like. Start by breaking down the “Magical” things you and your top people do into steps you can teach future employees.

Does this concept of “Magical People” make sense?
Let me know what you think.Have a magnificent week,
Hugh
PS We’d love to help you. There’s a special on now for the remainder of the first 100 seats in Agritourism Manager Boot Camp. This is the online course in which we “coach the coaches”; coach you directly through the preparation you need to guide your team through the “big game” of fall harvest season.I hope you’ll join us for a FREE Preview April 22, at 2PM EST. Join SIXTY-FIVE other farms and register right now and you get additional coaching resources each week leading up to the LIVE webinar event.

If you can’t make it to the LIVE event, we’ll send you a link of the recording as soon as it’s loaded, IF you register above.

If you like what you see and are ready to be coached, you may reserve your seat in the class right now. You won’t be the first one reserved, but we still have seats with a BONUS, individual coaching call included with your class. Reserve for the class now and SAVE $400. 

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What I learned #1: 3 Reasons to Identify Time Wasters

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Emailing multiple versions of files.
Telling the staff what to do at closing time.
Remembering the recipe.
Finding your vehicle registration.
How do we build those bridges?
Who’s on the clock?
What does she want for her birthday theme?
We always do the graphic layout that way.
Now I have to call all the staff on shift to tell them that…
Did that campfire get enough wood?Time. Busy, busy, busy. If only we had more time. Time keeps on ticking into the future. Time waits for no man. A stitch in time saves nine. Busy, busy, busy. We all waste time. Sometimes on purpose, but mostly we’re so busy we can’t see that we may be active, but we aren’t being effective. We’re filling every waking moment, but we’re wasting time.

I realized that we had some broken systems when this season we grew the business, but found ourselves drowning in work. At one point I realized that we couldn’t get much bigger, unless we got a whole lot better. We had to stop wasting time.

To do this, we began with a meeting between the top staff to discover the tasks, items, calls, questions that were sucking away our productive time. You might call it a “bitch session”, but you have to start somewhere. Generally, even “bitching” is based in some fact, on some real annoyance.

Throughout this process, we discovered a few very interesting reasons why you occasionally have to stop working and look at the way you work.

Here are some reasons why you, too, need to stop working to identify your time wasters.

1. Time is the most valuable asset a business possesses. Your time. Your staff’s time. Your guest’s time. It is incredibly valuable and you are wasting it – needlessly.

2. New time creates opportunities. You increase your business and personal capacity if you eliminate time wasting activities. Time = Opportunity. Notice I said, opportunity, not money. You have the opportunity to eat dinner with your kids. Your staff has the opportunity to do the real work that makes clients happy. Your sales team has the opportunity to make more calls. Your party planner has the time to get things right on the first order. You have to eliminate time wasters or you are handicapping your business and your people.

3. It boosts morale. If you take the time to listen to your employees, coworkers and partners, you may find that they can save your time and you can save their time. Happy employees take good care of your guests. If your people are so busy they can’t think straight, they will make mistakes and your clients will suffer.

We had so many group leaders calling asking the same questions Michelle nearly had a breakdown. She was stuck doing busy work instead of caring for guests. Our system was broken and it wears your staff out.

4. Bonus #1:  No offense, but you can’t even see the big time wasters in your business. Time wasters creep in slowly, you have to stop working to see them. Systems get old. Technology gets slow. Employees and owners alike develop systems to cope with the broken process. No one will say, “Hey, here’s a big time waster!” Likely they will soldier on looking very busy indeed.

If you don’t stop working you can’t spot time wasters. Your homework for the week is to hold a meeting and ask your family, management or other top-level people in your organization two simple questions:

“What takes up most of your time?”
and
“What do you feel really wastes your time?”

Have a great week,
Hugh

PS Bonus #2 If you really want to get feedback, have each person right his or her name on 3×5 cards or sticky note and answer the questions above for himself or herself. After they hand the cards in, have them write down the person’s name seated to the right of each of them, and answer the questions for that person.

Post the notes clustered by each person’s name on the wall or white board so everyone can see each person’s internal and external time challenges.

It’s especially interesting to learn what others observe about how we each spend our time.

“Don’t get squashed by yourself.” S.U.M.O. practice for farmers.

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…Continuing our series looking at Paul McGee’s S.U.M.O. (Shut Up and Move On) strategies, we’re looking at #3 and #4. If you look back to last week’s #1 and #2, we were working through our individual reactions to any given situation. We are to ask ourselves, “Where is this issue on a scale of 1-10 and 10 = DEATH? and How important will this be to me in 6 months time?

Both those questions zoomed out our perspective and worked to frame the issue appropriately using a long time scale. The real power in S.U.M.O. comes, I feel, from McGee’s next two questions because they are designed to engage you on a personal level.

#3 Is my response appropriate and effective? We all want people to do what we want them to do. The trouble is, we have no control over their actions and reactions. Tough as it is to accept, we can only control ourselves.

Here’s a chart of Appropriate/Inappropriate, Effective/Ineffective to illustrate the concept that we can only control our personal actions.

Appropriateness chart for blog

Think of a time when you have experienced each of these potential outcomes to your actions or reactions. Using the abbreviations, I’ve provided a few examples.

  • A/E: You see an employee doing a great job with a customer. You encourage the employee and praise her publicly. She continues to improve and turns into one of your star employees, helping others along the way. This was Appropriate and Effective.
  • IA/E: You scream at a vendor and they rush to fulfill your request. It gets done, but the relationship is never the same. It was effective, temporarily, but not an appropriate response.
  • A/IE: You politely request for the third time that your young employee come in on time. Sure, you kept your tone appropriate, but it will likely not modify the employees behavior.
  • IA/IE: Your wife fails to notify you that the in-laws are coming for the weekend. You flip out, curse their names, slam the door and shatter the glass on a cold December night. Riiiight, you get the picture you are WAY inappropriate and COMPLETELY ineffective…. and now you are cold, out some money for a window, still spending the weekend with your in-laws, only you’ll be sleeping on the couch to boot!

Don’t get squashed by yourself. The key is that YOU are in complete control of your response. It may not always feel like it, but taking just a moment to consider your words and actions can save you from being IA or IE and maybe even M.I.A. (as I would be if I ever tried to pull that last trick with my wife 🙂 Don’t squash yourself with IA/IE responses you may regret later. Focus on improving the situation.

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#4 How can I influence or improve the situation? After identifying the type of response you plan to give, you need to choose your words and actions. #4 focuses your energy on “influence and improvement.”

Have you ever seen people “pile on”? Kids are famous for it, but I’ve seen adults do it, too. Someone starts complaining about “Bobby”. Then, anyone within earshot comes in to “throw another jab”, “remember another time” when Bobby failed, and before long “everyone hates Bobby.” How could you approach this situation with a focus on improvement?

If you find your kids arguing, do you pile on the complaints? Send everyone away? Add your own yelling? How can you focus your reaction to the situation on improvement.

This week, take the next two steps and personalize your reaction to situations by (#3) identifying the appropriateness and effectiveness of your reactions, then (#4) focusing on how you can influence and improve the situation in a positive way. We’ll finish the series next time, until then, have a great week as you practice your S.U.M.O.!

-Hugh

“S.U.M.O.” Farmers? Part 1 of 3

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Paul McGee says, He has a very pragmatic approach to dealing with customer situations, management issues and daily interactions I just love. Over the past few years he has expanded his program to be taught in schools to kids to Stop, Understand and Move On. I’ll do my best to explain how to apply his philosophy to your life in 3 sessions. If you like the blog posts, I really suggest the buying his book here.

1. Where is this issue on a scale of 1-10? McGee adds, “And 10 is death!” What he’s doing is reframing the issue in a broader perspective. Perspective shift, or time shift is a way to look at the issue that might be smacking you in the face right now and “shifting” that issue into it’s future historical context.
Let’s say that your son doesn’t return the gas can full. You go for gas, no gas. You get mad and begin yelling. He starts yelling. Bad situation.
S.U.M.O. strategy: Call a time out. Rate the issue in your head knowing that a “10” equals death. Gas can is likely a 4 or less. Restart the conversation explaining what just happened in your head to your son.
Hugh’s example: Back when I was engaged to my lovely bride, we went to pick out silverware. I love cool unique stuff. Janine likes clean classic lines. After exhorting the awesomeness of the “natural twig sculpted handles” for something like an hour, I realized that on a scale of 1-10, silverware was not something important to me. It was more like a “1”. As I was already getting hungry, I just wanted to eat and I’d use a gardening shovel if I had to.
2. How will I feel about this in six months? This is the second reframing question and it’s a great one. I find myself using this with the kids as they get into petty bickering and nit-picking each other. I like to make them tell my how they are going to remember the specific things they are arguing about in six months.
I like questions such as, “Tell me Ian, which part of what you are saying right now to your sister would you like to have me remind you of in December? Which part of this conversation is so important we should write it down and post on the walls in your rooms? (I love that one:-).
Just making them stop to try to choose the important parts, puts an end to the momentum of the fight.
So, just using these first two strategies, how can you change the way you are currently interacting with an employee or how can you use these in making decisions in your life?
Here’s one more to start your thinking: “You know what, babe, I’d rather spend more of our time together at any restaurant than arguing about which one.”
I know it’s simple, but the best ideas are. Let me know how it works for you and stay tuned for next week’s edition.
Have a great week,
Hugh

“What would it take to make you happy?”

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Norman Vincent Peale

Happiness. Chased forever by so many people, but why is happiness so elusive? What would it take to make you happy? Many of us would list “success” in one form or another as the method to achieve happiness. Shawn Achor says that “Happiness is achieved first, then success will come.” Norman Vincent Peale’s quote above gives us the instant power to choose happiness each day.

Three steps to happiness.
1. Don’t wait for it. You might as well choose to be happy now because you’ll never have enough money to be happy. Studies have shown that at ANY income level, the interviewed people believed that true wealth and happiness was double their current income. It didn’t matter if you were making $40,000 or $400,000 dollars, happiness lay just beyond your reach.
2. Don’t discount the power of choice. As trap in your circumstances as you believe you are, you always have a choice. Our lives are so comfortable that we strive to eliminate all pain from our lives. I believe people have become so incredibly weak spirited because they are not forced to experience pain as often as they should. Eric Thomas says, “Pain is temporary. You ain’t gonna die because you experience a little pain. On the other side of pain is success.” Your choices might cause a little pain, but you always have a choice.
3. Don’t overlook your joy. The older my kids get the more I realize that I don’t need to go anywhere special, buy anything expensive, eat fancy food, sell 10 more attractions; I just want to get home earlier and read a book about clay dragons coming to life with my son or play my trumpet with my daughter playing her clarinet. Are you overlooking joy that is already in your life?
What if it’s not as complicated as we make it out to be? What if happiness is closer than we ever imagined? What if it’s already inside us just waiting to be unleashed into the rest of our lives?
Here’s your challenge of the week: As you plant that tree, sell that flower, plow that field, make that sale, I challenge you to take a few seconds to live in that moment of joy, of victory, of happiness and really enjoy it. You can then get back to work, but don’t let the chance to enjoy that little slice of happiness slip away.
Have a great week,
Hugh
PS It was in about 9th grade when I found a personal development tape set in my mom’s personal library of tapes from Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking called “Which face will you put on today?” My 2nd challenge for you is, Can you get something like this into the hands of a teenager or young person? It literally changed my life for the better and you better believe that my kids are going to hear it, too.

Curses upon you from your last convention.

Cursed-apple

I love conventions, but I routinely come home cursed. You do too, you just don’t know it. You come home cursed by Knowledge, Group Think, and Greener Pastures. These curses render you ineffective, manipulate your emotions, change your spending habits, and leave you less competitive.

The Curse of Knowledge. (The Curse of Knowledge is derived from the book “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath.) The minute you know stuff, you can’t un-know it and by knowing it you can’t imagine that anyone else in the world doesn’t know it. Follow that? You returned from your convention knowing stuff. It might have been in a session presented by a fellow operator, might have been an industry leader, might have been a keynote speaker or book author.

They told you that local food, for instance, is, as a trend, exploding. Everywhere the speaker looks local food is a rising tide that’s going to raise all boats. Local food is the center core of everything you should believe in and work on this entire year.

You probably came home and expounded to your staff/family/friends that local food was a blah, blah, blah. It is key to notice that the speaker also writes local food cookbooks, takes local food based vacations, specifically hangs out in farmers markets, and personally has dedicated her food budget to local food. She can’t possibly imagine a world without local food because her whole world is based in local food.

When you come home, you must deal with your world; the world in which you meet people everyday whose lives are not focused on local food. You have to sell to them.  We talk to each other at conventions and we’re talking/preaching to the choir, so it’s not surprising that we’re all on board with local food, corn mazes, pick-your-own, etc. We do it everyday. We can’t possibly imagine a world without those things.

A simple example: We, because we built it, know where everything is in the market, in our farm parks, and in our parking lot. As we jubilantly complained about “how dumb our customers are” and “how they can’t park cars in our open grassed fields”, we are blatantly demonstrating, embarrassingly demonstrating, “The Curse of Knowledge”: If you drove to a strange place, saw buildings you’ve never seen, we’re directed, loosely at best, into a wide-open grass field, would you be able to park?! Nope.

They say, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” the converse is “What you do know can hurt you.” If you and I insist on blindly knowing what we know, the Curse of Knowledge can separate us from our guests.

The Curse of Group Think. Sharing ideas. What a beautiful culture in our agritourism businesses. What flew, What flopped. Each of us takes turns presenting our successes for the year and inevitably we, as the audience for the presentation, take notes to implement those successes in our operations.

Sounds great, right? YES. Unequivocally, YES. It is one of the greatest tools for self-improvement in our industry. Also, NO. It is a terrible idea and it needs to stop. Ok, balance is the right goal with the Curse of Group Think. As we are listening to these stories, our mental filter must be running in overdrive.

Why filter these ideas? We, as an industry, must avoid homogenization. It’s great for milk, bad for business. I talked to a number of operators who were noticing that, over time, many operations start to look the same; they homogenize. Name the top 5 fall harvest attractions: Pumpkins, Hayrides, Corn Mazes, Corn Box, Straw Bale Jump. Everybody’s got’em!

We spend a lot of time and energy homogenizing our attractions which is exactly the WRONG thing to do. People visit our farms specifically because we’re different and unique. I’m not advocating a complete abandonment of implementing best practices and best attractions, but you need your filter in overdrive with specific intent to know your local competition and add the parameter of “How unique is this attraction?” to your discussion of “What should we add this year?”

The Curse of Greener Pastures. You, quite frankly, want what your neighbor’s got. At conventions this is magnified to “You want what the best farm three states away has got.” Oh, how green the grass looks like over there! I’m so totally guilty of this I just came home to start planning my winery/corporate party center/brewery/concert stage/museum/hedge maze/wood-fired-oven/wedding venue.

You want what your neighbor’s got! You just saw a great presentation on it! The pictures were amazing! It was the best thing they ever did for their farm! Wait — Did you catch that? It was the best thing they ever did for their farm. Are you chasing someone else’s dream or your own? Pastures have a way of looking greenest after someone takes a lot of time and goes through a lot of s&$t.

It is sooooooooo tempting to look at that beautiful green grass and come home to plan your winery/corporate party center/brewery/concert stage/museum/hedge maze/wood-fired-oven/wedding venue regardless of who you are, what your location and resources are, and what it really takes to run it as successfully as the person who presented at the conference does. This Curse is deadly because is can change your planning, spending, management needs, and throw your operation on it’s head only to find out that their dream is not even what you wanted.

Group think, specifically continuously creating your farm in another farm’s image, destroys the most powerful competitive advantage we have: We’re authentically different. As you evaluate your options for this season, release yourself from the curse of knowledge, the curse of group think, the curse of greener pastures.

Best practices are fine. New ideas are stimulating, but the best thing you can do is be true to your authentic self; be true to your business’s authentic spirit.

Go to conferences. Enjoy the people. Learn from the masters. Take notes. Just make sure you come home blessed, not cursed, by the experience.

Have a great week.
-Hugh

Past Corn Mazes at Maize Quest Fun Park (New Park, PA)

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I was taking a stroll down memory lane and thought I’d post the past mazes from 1997 to 2009, (2010 is not loaded yet). Thinking of how many families and children we’ve entertained is quite motivating for me in the cold of winter. Can’t wait for spring to break and get cracking on the 2011 Adventure… (all copyright MQ, of course)