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December 12, 2019

Use Core Values to Govern Your Farm Business

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Use core values to govern how you manage your business and your employees, urges David Kohl, a professor emeritus of agricultural economics with Virginia Tech.

He recently toured two farms, one in New York and another in North Carolina, who had simple, one-word core values written and posted so that owners, managers and employees clearly saw them every day. Typically, they were single words: Excellence, humility, respect, candor, integrity, work ethic, profitability and sustainability.

“One of the managers of the business was having difficulty with employees who were constantly tardy or did not show up for work at all,” says Kohl. The manager used the farm’s core values of work ethic and respect for other team members to dismiss the offending employees.

“He said it was very, very simple because the owners and managers had set the principles out beforehand,” says Kohl.

But the North Carolina business went even further, using violations of core values to dismiss a family member of the owner. “It was very objective and non-emotional, and the core values were the difference maker,” he says.

Both businesses also used core values in making major capital expansion decisions. “One of the things they used was the word ‘candor,’” he says. “In this situation, they were able to discuss, in a safe environment, both the positive and negative aspects and unintended consequences of the major expansion. They then incorporated these in the proposal to take to their agricultural lender.”

This demonstrates, says Kohl, that core values can be used in both day-to-day and strategic decision making.

You can listen to Kohl’s comments here.