Business Disasters: It’s not If, but When

Not business as usualWhile disasters come in all shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common – They impact your business revenue. 

Not only does a disaster slow down your income stream, but it adds expenses.

Recovery from a disaster is hard. And what makes it even harder for many small-business owners is the need to create the response on the fly plus the gathering of records and important documents, if that is even possible.

Most owners have a good intention of doing a disaster plan but somehow that day never comes. Or they get it done but fail to keep it updated. They are lulled into a false sense of security.

North Dakota State University Extension has developed a disaster app for both Android and iPhone applications. It allows the small-business owner to input basic crucial data along with pictures so that the business can get up and running more quickly.

More information about the app is available at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2016/aug-22-2016/new-disaster-app-helps-small-businesses-prepare-for-the-worst/view 

Available for tablets and smart phones, the app provides a place to build your basic disaster plan. Not only do you build it, but, since you carry it with you, it will be stored typically in an off-site location. And you can take a couple minutes of otherwise wasted time that often appear in your day.

Get the app. Fill it in. Take some pictures. You have your plan.

We hope your business never experiences a disaster, small or big, but now you can be ready.

Effective Employee Feedback

Good job sign

Photo (CC 2.0) by Steven Depolo, on Flickr

We all know that some guidance will help us to do our job more effectively and efficiently and in line with the needs of the company.

Yet most of us also know how nervous we get when its time for the annual appraisal. We are afraid of what we will hear and so we enter the conference room with our shields and rebuttals already in place and formulated.

And the person doing the evaluation may have had little support in providing effective feedback and also may find these conferences scary and perhaps of little value.

With this background, should we be surprised that the results are less than what we would hope for. A recent article confirms the idea that annual appraisals offer little in terms of results.

The University of Wyoming Extension’s, Enterprising Rural Families, looks at the issue of effective feedback in their July newsletter. Juliet Daniels, the author of the article, outlines the need to give feedback often, quickly and in private. She discusses the need to focus on observable behaviors, something that can be seen and something that can be changed. She gives the example of a “bad attitude.” This comment isn’t specific and may be something that the employer and employee see quite differently.

As you think about your employee development program or you work with small-business owners who are involved in such an activity, this newsletter offers some practical advice and a great background of effective feedback.

The goal is behavior change. Effective feedback can help make that happen.

Find the full article at: http://eruralfamilies.uwagec.org/Newsreleases/2016_07_NEWSLETTER.pdf 

Growing Pains

Change

Photo (CC) by Nana B. Agyel, on Flickr

One of the objectives at Power of Business is to learn from other business owners. Often others have already experienced the path we, as a business owner, are thinking about or already on.

This is a great story examining how growth turned out to be less than a great thing for Copper Pot Carmels.

According to the article, the issues started as the owners started to streamline the process in order to keep up with demand. What surprised them was the customer reaction.  And what was the streamlining? An automated wrapping machine which demanded a new type of wrapper.

Read how they had to step back and refocus and what their future plans are. Also pay attention to their passion for the business in terms of the hours they were working.  Lots of lessons to learn such as talking to your customer before making a big change.  You should also appreciate their attitude that “It’s not the end or an era; it’s the end of a chapter.”

Hopefully a reversed decision does not end your business but instead help you instead decide how to move forward. 

As you read the article, how might you have handled the situation? Lessons learned.

Research in Progress: Unpacking the Farm Labor Puzzle

Our Guest Blogger this week is Mary Peabody. Mary works for University of Vermont Extension. She reports on an team effort to examine the best practices of farmers in terms of effective labor management.  This work matches the Power of Business effort rural small business owners are encouraged to network with other business owners to help answer questions. This post is used with permission. It was originally posted on OOct 9th, 2015 at: http://bit.ly/1GQHNs3 

Farm workerOctober 2015.  One of the strategies new farmers often use to learn their craft is to observe and talk with other farmers that appear to be having success in similar operations. In fact, farmer-to-farmer learning has a very high preference score in nearly every aspect of farmer training

In this research project, we are using the same principle to identify labor management practices. By interviewing experienced farmers who also appear to be effective labor managers we are learning about the process of recruiting, hiring, training and retaining the right employees.

Throughout the summer and fall our research team has been conducting interviews with farmers in Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. As we collect their stories about what works and what doesn’t we’ll be looking for themes to emerge and building our next research phase from these findings.

In the meantime, no reason not to share a few of the pearls that have emerged from these interviews. So, a few keys to successful farm labor management from the experts in the field:

  • Be clear in your own mind about your business goals before you begin hiring.
  • Detailed job descriptions are critical. It sounds so obvious but an accurate, detailed job description is no simple matter.
  • Have prospective workers visit the farm so that you can meet with them face-to-face and observe them in your farm setting.
  • Do not expect farm workers to learn every aspect of the business right away. Manage the training so that the employee has time to master one activity before taking on something new.

Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project. And if you are a farmer that has successfully Female farm workernavigated the farm labor maze and you’d like to share your tips and strategies with us please contact us — we’d love to talk with you!

Thanks to all the farmers who gave us their time so generously in the heat of the growing season. You Rock!!

If you’d like to participate in this research project please email aglabor@uvm.edu

[In March 2014 UVM Extension, with several UVM research faculty and colleagues from University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wisconsin was awarded a 3-year integrated research and extension grant to look at labor management practices on small and medium-sized farms. The goal of this project is to identify clusters of labor management practices that “successful” farmers are using and develop decision tools that make these tools more available to other farms.]

The research team:

  • Mary Peabody, UVM Extension
  • Jason Parker, UVM Plant and Soil Science
  • Kathleen Liang, UVM Community Development and Applied Economics
  • Seth Wilner, UNH Cooperative Extension
  • Carolyn Sachs, Pennsylvania State University
  • John Hendrickson, University of Wisconsin Extension
  • Beth Holtzman, UVM Extension
  • Monica Petrella, UVM Graduate Student

NIFA AFRI Award #2014-68006-21873