All of us have goals that we work toward over many years – goals such as the debt-free ownership of a farm or ranch, or the burning of the mortgage on the family home. Some goals will require a lifetime to achieve; others can be attained in a year, three years, or a decade. In farming/ranching, short term goals focus on hoped for achievements, i.e., renting an adjacent pasture or additional farm land for this year or reaching 3 bales to the acre of cotton on ALL the irrigated land, or a twin calf crop from every mama.
To the extent possible, one needs to have short-term goals that directly support attainment of all the long-term goals. When this is true, the stage is set for more effective financial and business management success. However, it is rare for all short-term and long-term goals to be mutually supporting. In fact, goals for farming/ranching may be somewhat in opposition to important short-term family life goals. If you find inconsistencies in your set of goals, do not be surprised. Priority setting activities provide a means of examining conflict or competition between goals and identifying the ones you believe to be the most important or most urgent.
Frequently, one has to make some choices between attaining family goals and farming/ranching goals. Because the family and the farm are interdependent, it is important that one’s choices reflect one’s best thinking concerning questions like the following:
- –What goals are most important for family well being?
- –What goals are most important for the well being of the farm?
- –What short-term goals would contribute to the attainment of the long-term goals?
- –What goals are so important or urgent that they should be attained even when doing so will prevent you from attaining other goals?
Priority setting helps one identify the most important and urgent goals for farming and family life. Keep in mind that giving high priority to a goal does not mean that one ignores all other goals. It usually means that when one allocates time, money, and other resources to activities and enterprises, one gives preference to those activities that directly sort attainment of high priority goals.
Because people vary widely in their willingness to invest time and effort into priority settings, it is likely that you must make at least some choices between attaining family goals and attaining your business operation goals.
As you start to set priorities, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers to priority questions. The answers and the priorities you need are the ones that you believe in and will use to guide your management practices. When goals conflict and many times they will, be prepared, your priorities will determine which goals will come first as you carry out family life and work activities schedule. In places where the conflicts are of a greater scope or the intensity is too great, then be very careful as your prioritize. Many times you will see in family oriented partnerships, one family member that is completely gung ho while another family member is really laid back and not worried about anything or the time frame involved to accomplish the next task. That is when the art of communication in our everyday situations comes into play and we must discuss with our business partners exactly how we can rectify any type of given situation and then we can re-prioritize and continue on in a workman like manner. Priority decisions need not be exclusively either/or decisions. They can reflect at least three types of rankings:
Absolute Numerical Order
Where the numbers (first, second third, etc.) indicate any order of preference with the lesser priority goals being disregarded in order that the high priority goals can be attained.
Limited Numerical Order
Where the numbers represent levels of priority, but efforts toward attainment of the higher priority goals are limited so that partial or complete attainment of some of the lower priority goals can occur.
Side By Side
Where goals of about equal priority are placed in-groups and the groups are ranked in absolute or limited numerical order. When you are discussing priorities the whole process will go better if you follow the basic ground rules of:
- Be open and totally honest with yourself and with others
- Resist the temptation to make value judgments about each other’s statements of views
- Refrain from reacting until the other person has fully expressed his or her ideas and points of view
Remember when identifying your goals and setting them in their correct priority, You Must Know Where You Are Going, How You are Going To Get There, and When You Are to Arrive. You must know all three to be an effective successful financial manager. Those that are to survive in tomorrow’s economic society WILL be successful managers or be out.