Make Time Management Work for You

Clock“I don’t have enough time.”

No matter whom I am with or whatever group I am participating in, these words are a constant in the comments that people are making.

No one has enough time and it seems like our lives just keep getting busier. So how can we manage?

There are lots of self-help books, articles, podcasts, and webinars on the subject. Some are good in my view and some aren’t. The most helpful tips come I find come from real people discussing their own situation.

In a recent conversation, I mentioned this common cry for time management help. An author friend, Claudette Hegel, was kind enough to share a chapter on time management from her book, Down-to-Earth Writer’s Manual. These tips are from her experiences. What I appreciate about the chapter is that she realizes the broader life people have than just their work. She has simple tricks to help you stay on task.

I encourage you to read this short chapter. Then develop tricks and eventually habits to help you get out from the time crunch so many of us feel.

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.

Farms (And Small Businesses) Need Succession Planning

generations

Photo (CC) by Ray Dumas, on Flickr

Leaving one’s business or farm to the next generation is a desire of many business owners.

Yet, those same owners will often admit that they have done little in terms of actually planning to make this desire a reality.

The University of Wyoming Extension, like many other Extension programs, is there to help start the discussion and planning process for farmers, ranchers, and small business owners.

In their February 2016 newsletter, John Hewlett, Ranch/Farm Management Specialist, discusses how such transitioning begins with the children by sparking their interest and including them in the planning discussions. Often the only message heard is when times are tough. Little is said when it is a rewarding year.

Modeling values is another important task as is getting them actively involved with chores and special projects.

Finally, the youth must see that there is a lifestyle balance, not only in words but in action.

The early involvement of the children is the first of many steps necessary to pass along the legacy. The Wyoming Extension program has a downloadable program that covers many of the aspects that need to be addressed. You can find this program at: http://aglegacy.org/ . Also, check with the Extension Service in your state for materials they may have as well.

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 

Fine-tune Your Agritourism Operation

steve-driving-the-tractor-980-websiteGetting the most out of any business requires constant adjustment and fine-tuning. Agritourism businesses need the same thing as noted in this blog post by Michigan State University Extension.

In the post, they pulled together three tools to help you take a good look at your agritourism business. These tools came from the University of Vermont Extension, University of California Extension and Louisiana State University Extension.

You may also want to look at a resource booklet from Oklahoma and another from Oregon.

Agritourism offers some great opportunities to develop additional income from available resources. Achieving that goal requires you manage it like any other business. These guides can help.

Still wondering if agritourism is an opportunity for you?  Here are four farms that made it work. They are just a small sample of what there is to offer.

Sale Point Alternatives

Creativity

Photo (CC 2.0) by PunkToad, on Flickr

If you are running a small business you know that one part of the equation is getting your product in front of the customer.

The link provides you with a creative solution being used by one local foods entrepreneur.  The business owner didn’t invent anything new but simply took existing technology and put it to use somewhat differently. In this case, the different way was the selling of local meats.

As noted in the article, such machines are, and have been, used in similar ways for a few years. I can remember getting food out of vending machines in college and airports. So why not use it for local foods.

Yet it took someone to think a little bit out of the box. The idea allows for 24/7 sales, adds a virtual sales person, and can help someone expand their market reach.

This is just one way that a creative thought can move your company forward. Remember, standing still is not an option.

Following the Regulations

Dept. of Regulations

Photo (CC 2.0) by Jeffrey Beall, on Flickr

As I work with small business owners, I hear sometimes about the laws and regulations that impact the operation of their business. A difficulty they have is staying aware of new regulations that might affect them.

The Maryland Risk Management Education Blog recently wrote about a local business owner and an issue they faced, anti-discrimination statutes, in their agritourism business.

As they noted, their blog is not legal advice but brings up an issue that others may face. In the case of the business discussed, it brought a fine and a civil penalty as well.

As a business owner, you need to:

  1. stay abreast of these issues;
  2. put policies and procedures in place to ensure you comply,
  3. train your staff in compliance; and
  4. get a attorney on your team to offer advice.

Staying on top of such issues can help you avoid such fines. It also can save you dollars spent in handling legal issues. More importantly, it ensures that your business does not suffer from negative publicity.

Learn what laws and regulations affect your business. Watch for changes or new issues that come along. And take the necessary steps to ensure your compliance. 

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

How Does Your Company Start and End the Day?

Here to Help

Photo (CC) by tracey r, on Flickr

I came across this blog the other day, “Are You Really Ready to Serve” by Paul Larue. He asks a great question about a situation we probably have all been in.

After reading the blog, as an owner you know need to ask yourself about your own business. What is the experience that the first customer in the door or the last customer of the day has?

We have all probably experienced what Paul describes. I certainly have. And I wondered if I, the customer, was the priority? Some times I felt like I was but other times I felt I was simply interrupting the business.

As a business owner, are you and your employees ready to serve from the moment the doors open until they close for the day? You should be.