Uncategorized

How to Shear 700 Sheep in 9 Hours

 

Shearing a sheep has a pattern that, when followed, is efficient, precise and safe for both you and the sheep. In the 1950’s Sir Godfrey Bowen developed a method for shearing that is still used today. The pattern is very specific down to the exact number of strokes each part of the sheep takes. A really good shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes using his technique. I’m not a really good shearer but it reduces my time by more than half. (Yes, I tried to shear a sheep after watching a few Youtube videos and it took 45 minutes. After a week of shearing school I was down to 20 minutes.)

 

There are so many things I do every day that would be faster, more accurate and easy if I found the best way. Michael Gerber in “The E Myth,” his popular book on small business, suggests finding the best way for everything, then recording it in an Operations Manual.

 

Here are my top 5 reasons for putting some effort into writing Operations Manuals.

 

  1. Your mind is free to be creative somewhere else

 

  1. It is easier to teach someone else how to do what you do

 

  1. You have a baseline for tracking effectiveness

 

  1. When something goes wrong you can look at your process to find out why

 

  1. You don’t have to waste your time problem-solving something you problem-solved in the past

 

What have you found to be easier after finding the best way?

 

Rachel

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Entrepreneurship, Personal Growth

Your Big Idea

Aircraft taking off

 

A few years ago, I spent a day selling wine with a young salesman for a distribution company in the Midwest. I was there to represent Six Sigma Ranch in his territory, so he graciously introduced me to his accounts. After a few stops it was obvious that he was a nice guy, but not passionate about selling wine. So I asked a few questions about his life and interests as we traveled, and quickly learned his passion was flying airplanes. But he had exchanged this big idea for a sales job because it seemed more safe.

By the end of the day, he had changed his mind. He decided to quit his sales job, and start school to become a commercial airline pilot. We skipped the last account (he wouldn’t have followed up on it anyway), and instead went out for coffee to celebrate his new direction in life.

Every honest person I’ve ever asked has a big idea in mind. Some big ideas are buried, but surface with a few prying questions. Some big ideas are on the surface, because their owners are already living the dream. It seems everyone has a business, a book, a mountain or a pilot’s license in mind to conquer. But most of us never pursue our big idea. We don’t because it’s unreasonably large, or we don’t have enough resources, or it just isn’t a responsible thing to do. What if we failed? What would people think? And besides, some ideas simply can’t be done!

And that’s why most of us leave the big idea alone: It can’t be done.

But chances are it can. Think of human flight. It was widely known to be impossible until it happened.

And fortunately for most, the big idea doesn’t mean quitting a job one day, and applying for pilot school the next. Most of us can work on the big idea one little bit at a time, until it starts to make sense, and doesn’t look impossible at all.

That mountain you want to climb? Start by walking a mile each morning. The book you want to write? Write a page. Then two. The farm?  Begin by growing tomatoes in your backyard, and then chickens. And if you want to fly airplanes, celebrate with a cup of coffee and go get it done.

Christian

PS. Since I’m a person of faith, I believe big ideas come from God. He built each of us for a unique mission, and he planted a passion for that mission in our hearts so deep that it won’t go away. Most likely, that mission is too big to make sense. But, again because I’m a person of faith, I believe God gives us missions that are too big for our capacity on purpose, so he might empower us to do them, and prove that he is God. In fact, if the idea in your heart seems reasonable, it’s likely too small to be from God.

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Marketing, Uncategorized

Strangers, Friends, and Donald Trump

 

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I walked into a coffee shop last week to write for this blog. A lady sat at a table next to me, and began working on her computer. After a decade in Lake County, I know a lot of faces, but this was a stranger. We typed in harmony for the duration of a cup of coffee. Then she got up for more coffee, and asked me to watch her computer and bag while she was gone. I nodded, and went back to work.

It’s interesting that I had, in less than an hour, become a trusted resource to protect her belongings. It’s not that I wouldn’t ask the same of her, but neither do I pretend that asking a stranger to watch my stuff makes any sense. In fact, if I were the sort of person who runs off with other people’s laptop-filled messenger bags, this is exactly the scenario I would seek out: Sit at a coffee shop next to someone, and wait for them to ask that I watch their stuff. Then calmly wander off with it. That would be much less suspicious than walking in off the street in search of loot, like the type of person from whom my typing companion was clearly enlisting me to save her.

And yet, somehow, the hour we spent together (in silence) had created rapport.

The idea that strangers become trusted friends based on exposure is well understood by marketers and campaign managers. Why else would a company like Coca Cola spend millions posting pictures of their logo? Why should you pitch that booth at the farmer’s market each week? And why would Hilary Clinton post signs that simply say “Vote for Hilary?” Because it works.

We get more customers by being visible. We get more votes by putting up more signs, or showing up more on the news. Donald Trump gains trust from years on reality TV, whether he makes any sense or not. And Hilary gets a boost because we’ve known her since Bill got elected in 1992. But I still wouldn’t trust her to watch my bag at a coffee shop.

Christian

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Uncategorized

The #1 Grape Grower in the World

Panorama of Burgundy vineyards . France       Andy Beckstoffer sells wine grapes at prices above $10,000 per ton, in an industry where $2,000 is more common. He grows thousands of acres, and has spent 40 years turning Beckstoffer Vineyards into a luxury brand in an industry dominated by nameless commodities.

“Uhh, how?” asked a fellow grape grower at a meeting I attended a few years ago.

The question was a good one. If the man who dominates your industry shows up at a meeting, it’s time to table the agenda and start asking him questions.

And Andy was happy to share, in his charming Virginia accent. “Well, Bill, if you grow wine grapes, you better grow the best damn wine grapes in the world. And you better put all your energy into that, and you better ask people to put your name on the bottle so people know where the grapes came from. And when your winemaker customers get a higher price for their wine because your grapes are better than everyone else’s, you better ask to get a proper share of that price.”

I knew all that from reading about Beckstoffer in history books, but it was still fun to hear it from the man himself.

And then came the nugget that I hadn’t read anywhere.

“But even if you grow the best damn grapes, you need people to notice. So if you’re a grape grower, you’re not going to be spending time with other grape growers. Grape growers don’t buy grapes. You better be spending time with winemakers. Winemakers buy grapes. And the best winemakers in America were in Napa Valley when we started, so that’s where I set up office. If you’re a grape grower, you’re selling grapes to winemakers, so you better walk where they walk, eat where they eat, and pee where they pee. And then when they come up short on a wine blend, and you’re standing right there at the urinal next to them, you bet they’re gonna ask you about the finest grapes in the world.”

They didn’t mention urinals when I took my MBA, and I’m not sure if they came up at Dartmouth in 1966 when Andy finished his. But Andy’s comments have done more for my understanding of business than most of the things that did come up in school.

Christian

ps. If Andy reads this post, I hope he will excuse my paraphrase. I couldn’t take notes fast enough to get it verbatim. I hope to have captured the essence.

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Entrepreneurship

Rattlesnakes, Mary Kay, and other Myths of Marketing

rattlesnake

 

It doesn’t matter, really, if baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adult rattlesnakes. True or not, the story spreads: “Did you know that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous because they don’t know how to control their venom?”
Why do we share these things? Do we expect fellow humans will use greater care in the company of small snakes?  Maybe. But don’t most of us avoid engaging rattlesnakes, regardless of expected dosage? Are we trying, then, to establish ourselves as serpent experts? That could be it too. But again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we do share snippets of story with innocent bystanders.

Consider that phenomenon in the context of business. What snippets do we share, for whatever reason, when circumstances trigger them?

Here are a few examples:

“She spent her $5,000 life savings to create a company that would give women a chance in a business world dominated by men.” – spoken of Mary Kay

“Did you know that the original recipe contained cocaine?” – spoken of Coca Cola (And true, according to Snopes.com, but no more useful than the rattlesnake story.)

“It was founded by famed Rombauer winemaker because he saw that Lake County grows better grapes than Napa Valley” – spoken of Gregory Graham Winery

“He posted hundreds of rejection slips from publishers on a nail above his desk before selling his first book.” – spoken of Stephen King

“He filed for bankruptcy after earning millions in real estate, then searched the Bible for wisdom on handling money.” – spoken of Dave Ramsey

“She left a successful career in Silicon Valley to start a sheep shearing company.” –spoken of West by Midwest founder Stephany Wilkes

We all want to share snippets of story.

Now tell us yours.

Christian

ps. The rattlesnake fact is, by the way, a myth. According to Arizona State University, baby rattle snakes are no more dangerous than adults. They just make a good story.

pps. Thank you for following and sharing our blog. We would write even if nobody was reading, but it’s even more fun because you do : )

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Entrepreneurship, Personal Growth

Children, Garlic, and NVA’s

thWhen it comes to kids, three is more than two. Not just one more, but a lot more. I expected that Isabella, born in February, would change the game because Rachel and I are now outnumbered, but that’s not the main factor. The game changed because the older kids are now in preschool, kindergarten and baseball, while the little one eats 7 times per day and sleeps (or should sleep) 18 hours out of 24. That all takes a lot of time, especially when adding occasional attempts at grown-up conversations and gainful employment.

I share this as a segue to a time-saving epiphany, a “chef tip” I stumbled upon in a cookbook. “Tip # 7: Don’t peel the garlic before pressing.”

Say what?? You mean all the time I spend fumbling to extract those suckers from papery peel is wasted? You mean I can save several minutes and endless frustration on every spaghetti Bolognese and guacamole batch for the rest of my life? “Yes,” whispered the book at my disbelief. And, sure enough, it works. Just jam the cloves into the press and give it a squeeze.

The gurus of Six Sigma process improvement call this concept (a step that adds no value) Non-Value Adding, or NVA. (They are business gurus and not poets for a reason.) NVA’s haunt life and business alike, and often go unnoticed. The garlic epiphany, and life with an 8-week-old, makes me wonder which other NVA’s are lurking in the shadows.

Christian

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Personal Growth

Finding Myself . . . . . With the Hogs

 

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At 18 years of age I graduated from High School and was challenged to do something with my life. I had no idea! So I started by going to college and trying classes that looked interesting. I found I loved economics but didn’t declare a major in the subject until my sophomore year. Why? Most people that study economics end up behind a desk and I didn’t want that to be my fate. I did end up getting my bachelors in Economics but decided that minors in both Biology and Business would round it out nicely. Where was I to go with that hodge podge of degrees!

It turns out that I can really use an understanding of the markets, supply/demand, pricing, subsidies, economies of scale and policy in the business of farming. A background in Ecology doesn’t hurt either. But, mostly it is my gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences that make me thrive with the sheep, pigs and people that I work with everyday.

What I lacked in college was a really good understanding of what made me who I am. I’m older now and have a better grasp on my strengths and weaknesses. But, I had to do extensive reading and soul-searching to be satisfied with what I do today.

If you are still confused and bewildered by how your talents fit with farming, congratulations! You are normal. Here are a few quick questions to get you started on finding yourself.

What are your Gifts? Can you name two?

Here are some examples:

Serving

Teaching

Giving

Leadership

Mercy

Encouragement (This is me)

Wisdom

 

Where is your Heart?

Try answering these questions:

What do you spend most of your time doing?

What do you do in your spare time?

What needs around the world get you fired up?

 

What are your Abilities?

Try answering these questions?

Are you a Technician? Of what?

Are you an Entrepreneur? What have you attempted to start?

Are you a Manager? What systems have you made?

 

How do you work with people?

Try answering these questions?

Are you Decisive?

Are you Interacting?

Are you Stabilizing?

Are you Calculating?

 

What major Experiences make you who you are?

Can you name two?

 

Now that you have a profile of yourself ask one more question.

How can you use all these strengths farming?

 

Rachel

 

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