Maize Quest’s “The Power of “We”” – Alleviating loneliness with collaboration.

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Being a small, farm business owner can be a lonely life. Long hours and geographic isolation, plus the isolation of being a business owner when everyone else has a job, makes it a tough road.
The toughest part isn’t being alone, though, it’s the isolation from the feedback, community and ideas of others.
Fortunately, that isolation need no longer be so deep. I’ll share with you a few tips and tricks to alleviate the isolation and open your business to fresh ideas and feedback from other business owners online.

NAFDMA online, year round. If you are reading this, you likely know that I’m a big supporter of the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association. it is the largest independent group of farm marketers and agritourism operators in the world.

(Aside: Why did I say “independent”? By independent, NAFDMA is a group that exists for, and is directed by, its members, and is, specifically, not controlled by a for-profit company, such as Maize Quest.)
NAFDMA recently made a big switch from being a convention-based organization to being a membership organization with benefits available all year, even if you don’t attend the annual convention. (You can read more about the membership benefits [CLICK] here.)

How to use Facebook for collaboration.One of the most widely accessed NAFDMA benefits is a Closed Facebook Group for members only. There I’ve seen questions from sky-diving farmers to peanut butter recipes to vendor recommendations. Each one a chance for brainstorming and sharing regardless of location or time of day.

Accessing a group like this can save you thousands of dollars and hours of time. The camaraderie of connecting with like minded business people is worth the low price of admission – Just $250 for a premium membership. (You’ve likely seen a dinner bill bigger than that!)  The neat thing is that the group is just one of the new benefits. (Have you seen the magazine? Email me for more info if you like.)

Buy the class, get the group included. The Private VIP Facebook Group is creating big value in our Agritourism Manager Boot Camp Class as well. It is so wonderful to be with a group of people, all working on the same problems at the same time.

Members post their homework assignments and get feedback and accountability from other classmates. (It was fun to see all the last minute crammers post the night before the assignment was due. Took me back to high school!)

Why this all matters.

  1. You can’t think of everything. Tap the Power of ‘We” by connecting with other like-minded individuals.
  2. We all need to connect and share as human beings. It’s good for us to talk, vent, solve, and receive help.
  3. Geography is no longer a limitation. Neither is time.
You can do it, too. Setting up a group is as easy as 5 clicks from your Facebook Home Page.
  1. Choose an “Open Group” for public topics.
  2. Choose a “Closed Group” for limited access
  3. Choose “Secret Group” for your own VIPs.

Invite some friends and collaborate, share pictures, videos, files, add questions and have discussions without being limited by space or time.

There is no longer a need to be alone in business and go without the benefit of peer-to-peer interaction each week or even each day.

 That is something you to which you can assign a great value.

I hope to connect with you soon.

Have a great week,
Hugh

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“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. 

“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.

Dad out the door.

When my dad was about 6 years old, he went out the door.

The “potato cellar” was a large barn with three floors and a basement- the cellar. Paul, my dad was on the top floor with his monther, my grandmother, called tohim, “Paul, get away from that door.”

 

Paul replied, “Don’t worry mom, it’s locked! Seeeeeeeeeeeeee…” And with that, he promptly fell out of the barn. In the picture below, you can see the door still attached to the barn, right before we pulled it down.

 

Paul was fine, though he received a concussion and I would imagine a fairly torough talking to from his mother.

Dad out the door.

When my dad was about 6 years old, he went out the door.

The “potato cellar” was a large barn with three floors and a basement- the cellar. Paul, my dad was on the top floor with his monther, my grandmother, called tohim, “Paul, get away from that door.”

 

Paul replied, “Don’t worry mom, it’s locked! Seeeeeeeeeeeeee…” And with that, he promptly fell out of the barn. In the picture below, you can see the door still attached to the barn, right before we pulled it down.

 

Paul was fine, though he received a concussion and I would imagine a fairly torough talking to from his mother.

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