All of us at the Alliance just got back from an action-packed, fun-filled week in Kansas City, Mo. for our 2015 Annual Stakeholders Summit. “The Journey to Extraordinary” was our first summit held outside of the Washington, D.C. area and my first Summit ever. What a great way to start my position as membership and marketing manager! Hearing our high-quality speakers share their stories and advice, I began to wonder what the agriculture community could learn from completely different businesses. One of my favorite companies, Google, has a list of ten things they know to be true that drive their business. Five of those were also themes shared at our Summit.
1. “You can make money without doing evil.”
How true is that!? A focus on profitability does not make someone a villain. I’ll venture to guess that the critics who make that argument do what they do for money, too. I bet they go to a job on a regular basis, or figured out a gig to work from home, or started their own business, or have a family member who earns money and shares it with them, or gets some sort of assistance from others. We all need food, water, shelter and clothing, and having money is the easiest way to get those essentials. The lucky ones get to make a positive difference in that job, and some have enough free time after earning their money to volunteer for causes that they feel passionate about.
It irks me when people want farmers to farm in a way that makes them less profitable just for the sake of doing things like they did in the olden days, even when those practices are not supported by science to be any more beneficial to our health or the environment – and sometimes even less so. We had a few speakers on sustainability in Kansas City. Being sustainable means being socially responsible, environmentally sound, and economically viable. Too often people forget you need to make a profit to be sustainable.
2. “You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.”
For Google, this is about being mobile and being where the user is. For the agriculture community, I think of this as how we are always on the go, our consumers are always on the go and we often fail to meet each other in the same place. We need to be transparent in our businesses and available to meet consumers where they are looking for answers. If we don’t do a good job with this, farmers may lose their right to farm the way they know is best for their animals and the land because of costly regulation or customers dictating required farming practices without a solid understanding of animal care.
3. “There’s always more information out there.”
And sometimes it’s misinformation. Thanks to our friends at Google, we have easy access to an unthinkable amount of information. People have short attention spans and the science of agriculture and food is complex. Most people don’t want to wade through all of the information that’s out there to find the truth. So I challenge you to get better at telling your story and connecting with consumers on an emotional level, instead of teaching them about the science. When they have questions about the science, hopefully they reach out to YOU instead of Google.
4. “You can be serious without a suit.”
We in agriculture may have a bit of an image problem. Farming, agriculture and food are serious business along with being lifestyle choices. Farmers and ranchers are typically well educated, experienced, hard-working individuals, but they are not always perceived that way. Typically, consumers trust farmers. So again, I’m begging you, be the trustworthy source and share your passion with others.
5. “Great just isn’t good enough.”
We can do better. We will do better. We are all on the journey to extraordinary and we will strive for continuous improvement. Google often enjoys residing at the top of Fortune’s list of best companies to work for. If you treat your employees well, put their health, safety, and satisfaction first, they will do the same for your business.
Take some time out of your day to think about what companies or brands you connect with and figure out why they do what they do. What can you learn from them and apply to your business?