As the end of the year approaches and I reflect on the past years, I often think about the amount of changes that we face in business - and especially in agriculture. You think of the changes in technology, the change that comes about through tariffs or government policy, the changes required due to the crazy weather patterns, and wonder where the coming years will take us. I also wonder where the stability will come from that agriculture needs to survive and thrive.
We know the past few years have been tough. I was reading of the increase in farm bankruptcies just the other day and pray that the coming years will give the American Ag producer a break.
So what gives? And how do we find stability and certainty in the whirlwind of change and uncertainty?
From my experience you have to have a foundation that can stand the “winds of time”. A foundation that doesn’t have cracks in it. That can take the “bullets” that life or business shoots at us. And I realize more and more as the years go by of the crucial need of understanding what my foundation is.
And I think a strong foundation starts with a strong set of “values”. Do I know in my personal life what my values are? Or in my business? We all have them. Sometimes they are unspoken or unrecognized, but we all have values that we make decisions by - that characterize us. That came from how we grew up. From the faith that our parents taught us. From a mentor or boss that influenced us in our early years.
I also believe that it is extremely important that we take the time to write down what these values are. The “guidelines” that we make decisions by. Our “true north”, if you will. If we are in business we have to engage our team around them. We have to hire by them. And let people go in our organizations if they don’t follow or make decisions by our values. So many businesses go through the exercise, but if you ask the CEO or senior leadership team what their values are, they cannot even quote them from memory. Which certainly means they cannot be living by them. They have to find them on a wall somewhere or look on the website…
When we have these values, I see them as the “railroad tracks” that help get us through the good and the bad. I totally recognize that I sometimes mess up and make decisions that are not value based. Especially when it hurts to do so. But even if I get derailed, I have the tracks to go back to. To get back to the values that I seek to live by. So we have to have them. It doesn’t make us perfect, probably the opposite, but once we understand truly how we want to live, what we want to characterize us, I sometimes think we become more aware of the times we fall short. But it helps us to keep on keeping on-even though we know we don’t always measure up.
The other thing I have noticed about a strong set of values is that through the 20 plus years I have been in business - the values haven’t changed. And the longer we go on, the more we appreciate having a foundation; having something stable to always lean on in a sea of uncertainty.
It also challenges us more as the years go on. Our first value is Integrity. And it seems that integrity means less and less in the business world today. It also means that we have to hold onto integrity tenaciously as a value to provide stability that our employees and our customers are looking for. That even if it doesn’t make “business sense” to make the decisions we do, that if integrity is in question we cannot “go there”. And the people appreciate it. They come to know that as a person or as a business you have a standard. And it matters.
I hope this resonates with some of the readers. I would greatly appreciate hearing from you on how values matter to you and your business.