Starting a New Year

1/18/2014 7:00 AM

B y the time you are reading this, the New Year will be upon us and 2013 will be history. Now is the time to take stock of where you are with your business and family, and set goals for where you would like to be one year hence.

In the past, I have spoken about the importance of setting annual goals and their value. Now, I would like to move the discussion to the next level. Yearly business goals often relate to things like more milk per cow or more corn per acre. The biggest mistakes we make when setting yearly goals is that we make them too general and we tend not to write them down. Remember: A verbal goal is not worth the paper it is written on!

This means that before you can move to setting second level goals, you must write down your yearly goals, this year and every year. Each yearly goal must be specific and achievable. For example, a goal of increasing milk per cow per day by 5 pounds when your cows are producing 60 pounds per day certainly meets both requirements, but a goal of 5 pounds per cow when your cows are producing 90 pounds per day would seem much less achievable. But they are your goals. Decide what they need to be and then write them down and place them where you will see them throughout the year and most importantly, next year at this time.

The only thing as important as writing down goals is reviewing your progress. This review of your progress brings us directly to second-level goals. Second-level goals are tougher. They deal with where you want to be in 10, 15 or 20 years. Have you ever even taken the time to dream about the future and what it could be? Have you ever asked your spouse, family members, partners and others where they see the business and themselves in 10 or 15 or even 20 years? In many situations there is one owner who loves the cows and working with them, while others are not as excited. For them, perhaps the crops are a greater priority. Second-level goals take the often substantially different visions for the future and blend them into a common, eventual destination.

Examples of common second-level goals are things like: the absence of debt by 2025; farming 2,000 acres by 2020; or retiring by age 55 with $1 million in the bank so we can go do missionary work. All are equally valid and for most, equally difficult to achieve. But that is the point. Secondary goals must be difficult and perhaps seemingly impossible to achieve.

There’s an old African question: How does one eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.

This is exactly how secondary goals are achieved: one successful yearly goal at a time. It is the success of your yearly goals that gets you to your secondary goals. With an eye toward the long-term success of your business and your family, I urge everyone to sit down and write out, this week, both your 2014 goals and your secondary goals for at least 2020 and 2025. Happy belated New Year!

Editor’s Note: Michael Evanish is the manager of MSC Business Services, a member service of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. For more information, call 717-731- 3517.

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