Thursday, October 22, 2020

Farmers Are the Ultimate Entrepreneurs

Fall is here (although it looks like winter outside at the moment!). This time of year always makes me think of farmers across the upper Midwest harvesting their crops. I consider farmers to be the ultimate entrepreneurs and, generally, some of the smartest and most determined people I have ever met.

Like many entrepreneurs, 2020 has presented a lot of challenges for farmers who, even before this year, were already battling declining profit margins, low commodity pricing and increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather patterns. Farmers are constantly innovating, growing businesses by themselves and taking full responsibility for the success of their products, from seed to harvest. I think entrepreneurs can learn a lot from America’s farmers.

Here are three things entrepreneurs can learn from farmers: 

  • Use your mission as motivation. For an entrepreneur to be successful, the entrepreneur better have a mission that matters and motivates them. A farmer’s mission is to produce the world’s food and other essential agricultural products. Farming is essential and fundamental to society. An entrepreneur’s mission should be equally as critical.
  • Employ data analytics. Farmers rely on sophisticated data analytics to aid their decision-making, such as what crops to plant and when to plant them, whether to contract in commodity futures and when to sell products. Data allows farmers to evolve and to avoid relying solely on historical practices to dictate future actions. Entrepreneurs should use data to help them innovate with knowledge and confidence, particularly when you’re operating in a high technology environment where things can change rapidly.
  • You are only as good as you word. Farming communities are typically small and a farmer’s word means everything.
    Trustworthiness matters and can be a key driver in establishing a positive business reputation, business longevity and key business relationships. Of course, written agreements are relevant and can be important (how could a lawyer like me say anything different). Like farmers, entrepreneurs should value their verbal commitments at least as much as written legal agreements. 

There exists a misconception that farmers and farming are behind the times. Those of us who work with or have been exposed to farmers feel the opposite way. Just like high tech startup entrepreneurs, farmers frequently embrace innovation, work tirelessly and are among the first to take on risk and innovate if there is a potential return. 

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