The seven habits of highly effective farmers

Stephen Covey selected seven essential ‘habits’ for great managers. Which of these are on your list?

Managing for profit by Peter Hughes

There are some truly inspirational books to help you in your quest to become a great manager.

Peter Drucker’s Concept of the Corporation about General Motors is a bit dated now, but it was the first book ever written about ‘management’ as we understand it today.

Drucker realised that there was much more to it than the boss giving orders and everyone following, and in The Practice of Management, as valid today as it was in 1954 when he wrote it, he recognised that the real life-blood of any organisation is the talent and skill of its management.

Books in the same class are In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman (1982), The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (1992), Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (1994), and Jim Collins’s follow up, Good to Great (2001), which describes why some businesses make this leap and others don’t.

What triggered this trip down literary memory lane was an article I came across on prairiefarmer.com, in which a US economics professor, Gary Schnitkey, taking a cue from Stephen Covey, identified the seven common characteristics or habits of profitable soya farmers:

  1. They are innovative and dive into new ideas.
  2. They do their own research with on-farm testing of new technologies and practices.
  3. They look at return on investment, not simply yields.
  4. They push yields, producing one to two bushels more per acre than their neighbours.
  5. They are excellent at cost control.
  6. They ask for help to address areas of weakness, making extensive use of consultants.
  7. They receive a premium price, whether its non-GMO beans or seed bean production.

I then started looking for other gems of farm management wisdom, dressed up as ‘seven habits’, and soon found that in 2016, Lilian Schaer of IPSOS (ipsos.com), had carried out a survey of 604 farms across Canada.

She, too, had identified ‘seven habits’ of farm managers who were having the greatest impact on farm profitability.