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May 12, 2020

Business Planning Now More Important Than Ever

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

The intense day-to-day, 24/7 nature of dairy farming can become a cauldron of intense emotion as you struggle to keep daily operations going, plant new crops, prepare for first cutting of forage, deal with the financial implications of vastly reduced revenues all the while trying to keep your family and employees safe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are all real struggles, and no one is immune from the stress of these challenges, says Bob Milligan, a senior consultant and dairy and labor management specialist with Dairy Strategies LLC.

“Certainly no one is denying that COVID-19 is real,” he says. “I do, however, believe that most of us are in denial about the potential severity of the crisis and avoiding looking at worst-case outcomes.

“I recommend that you realistically identify the worst-case or nearly worst-case scenario and then develop a contingency plan. I truly hope you do not have to implement that plan, but I predict your overall decision making will be better by understanding more of the potential implications,” Milligan says.

Spring is the time of year most farmers love because it gets them out of office, away from computers and spreadsheets, and gets them on the land to plant this year’s crops. While spring field work can be a respite from financial pressures, it can be an avoidance mechanism as well.

“Your priority right now must be planning,” says Milligan. “I am suggesting that leaders everywhere need to be spending two to three times as much time planning [as they normally do].

“The time requirement comes both from the uncertainty and complexity of the situations and from the need to collaborate with others due to this uncertainty and to your receded decision making capacity,” he says.

Milligan says every business needs virtual communication capacity to list ideas, plans and financials to modify proposals. This virtual communication capacity will allow you to consult with your advisors both on the production and financial side to put together contingency plans that can be used as the need arises.

Milligan says you also need to assess your own emotions and be certain they do not result in destructive behaviors toward your family, employees and friends. “Look for these emotions in your employees and others. Be proactive in discussing these emotions and take action to assist employees and others,” he advises.