Jim was an energetic young farmer who was well known throughout the community. While he always seemed to be a very busy and hard working man, he was never in too much of a hurry to stop and visit for a few minutes with friends and neighbors. He had inherited a moderate sized farm and an adequate line of machinery. It seems that he had everything needed to be a successful farmer. As the years went by, it became evident that farming just was not working out for Jim. His fallow fields almost never looked really clean and neat. Almost every year he lost the struggle to get the crops planted on time. Pesticides and fertilizers often were applied too late to be really effective. The corn harvest often was finished after the first snow fell. Jim often summed it up by saying, “things just never seem to work out.”Jim was visiting with his agricultural consultant one day and commented that the more he worked the more he seemed to get behind. The consultant suggested that Jim keep a written record of major work activities and farming events during the upcoming year. He offered to sit down with Jim at the end of the year to discuss the work record insights about Jim’s priorities in life. Jim responded, “work is my first priority.” But, he agreed to keep a written record of his major time commitments and work activities during the year. As he said to his wife, “what do I have to loose?” And, he secretly expected the record would show that he put in more work time than anyone else in the community. When the next winter came, Jim and his consultant got together to look over his work records for the year. Among other things, they discovered that:

When work for all purposes was included, Jim had worked an average of more than 65 hours a week during March through November and about 55 hours a week during the rest of the year.

Seedbed preparation and seeding had been delayed by about two weeks because Jim’s tractor was in the shop for repairs in April (it had been clear the previous fall that the tractor was “ill”, but Jim thought it wasn’t serious enough to require repairs.) It was.

During February and March, Jim had worked nearly full time without pay while helping a neighbor build a sprayer in his farm shop. When his wife asked “why” he was using so much time that way, Jim had responded that the work was fun and he enjoyed working with the neighbor.

Throughout the spring and summer, Jim had spent an average of 15 hours a week tending a wildlife-area tree planting project that he had put in the previous year on the 12 otherwise non-productive acres.

About half of the soybeans were very weedy, as Jim did not want to borrow money for the herbicides. He did not have the cash on hand as in late April he had spent more than $14,000 on another four-wheel drive pickup.

Jim’s wife had been more than a little disturbed with him throughout he summer as the freezer had broken down and most of the frozen food spoiled before she discovered it. (She moved the unspoiled food to the locker plant in town.) Every time she mentioned that they needed a new freezer, Jim said there was not enough money to buy one.

The last of the grain was not cultivated. It was ready to cultivate, but a few days before the wheat harvest started, Jim discovered the combine motor needed a new cylinder head gasket. By the time the combine was repaired, the wheat was well …? Then the weeds were too large.

Only half of the field borders were sprayed with herbicide. Jim was “hassled” by the neighbors because the unsprayed borders raised a prime crop of sunflowers and cockleburs.

Repair time and tire replacement costs for the grain truck were very high. During harvest the truck driver ran over a hitch of a spike harrow that had been “parked” in tall grass along the edge of a field.

Part of the fallow land on which Jim intended to plant winter wheat was not in shape for planting in September. It had had a moderate infestation of weeds in early August when Jim and his wife left for two weeks of work on the renovation of a nearby youth camp located at the other end of the state. When they returned, the weeds were so large and the soil was so dry that cultivation was not beneficial.

The corn harvest started late, required lots of labor, and the field was not finished until after the first snows. Rain in October had made grain drying a necessity and parts for the 10-year-old grain dryer had to be shipped from the factory.

After Jim found that it needed repairs, he recalled that the “dryer was not working right last time I used it.”

Jim and his consultant discussed all the above entries on his diary and how they related to the management of Jim’s farming operation and to his family life. The consultant was none too enthusiastic about the things that he saw. Jim defended his use of time and money saying, “but, I work harder than anyone else in the community.” His consultant’s answer was, “Maybe you really need to work smarter not harder.”

Do you think that Jim knows WHERE his farming operation is going, HOW he is going to get there, and WHEN he will arrive at his intended destination?

In other words:

  • –Would you say that Jim has identified his farming goals?
  • –Does Jim have, and follow, management priorities?
  • –Does “work is my first priority” make Jim a good manager?
  • –How might Jim’s work situation be improved?

Think for a few minutes about these questions, and your impressions of Jim’s approach to business management and his family life. Do any of these sound familiar in your own given situations? In those of a business partner? Do you think that Jim had identified his farming goals sufficiently? Had Jim focused on family goals? Where were Jim’s priorities focused for the business at hand? What were Jim’s priorities for management in general? How could he have avoided some of the problems his consultant and he had found? Do we see other areas that he could “fix”? *2) My dog is big.* As we look at Jim, we realize he is one heck of a good guy. He is one of the “good ole boys”; one that each of us has been like at one time or another. Jim is the guy every neighbor hopes he is living close to. Or is he? How effective is he as a manager?

There are two important questions we need to keep in mind, and they are:

  1. 1) What are the highest priorities in your life?
  2. 2) Of these priorities, which do you value the most?

The answers to these questions are important. But equally important is what we DO with these answers.