Recently I visited two big properties related to agriculture with two different scopes and purposes. These two properties are long terms homesteads from long term residents of Hopkins County or their families. It is interesting to me that their family successors are now “coming back home” after several years of being passive or gone from their family business. They have in common a loving memory of their families’ hard work at the farm and want to continue the effort under today circumstances. After getting to know them enough to set up some priorities in the planning process, I like to ease them into putting some goals (personal or financial) to start their strategic planning. Strategic planning is a process that provides direction and meaning to day-to-day activities. For landowners, this process often involves preparing for a change in the dynamics of an existing operation. If you planned a trip to some new destination, the first item you would consult would be a map to chart the journey from point A to point B. In many ways, a business plan serves the same purpose and provides a map for your operation and your desired destination. This publication will focus on the process of setting and assessing goals to incorporate into a formal business plan or course of action.
Before you can begin any journey, you must define a specific destination. Likewise, in our business and personal endeavors, we must define our goals. When you consider adding an alternative enterprise to your existing operation, a logical first step in the evaluation process involves defining what you hope to achieve from adding this activity and how this new activity fits within the framework of your existing operation. This requires careful reflection to set and prioritize personal and/or financial goals. In any endeavor, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you achieve the intended result. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Related and Timely. Each of these concepts is important for success. Specific goals infer that a unique desired outcome can be defined. Measurable goals are important because they create a gauge by which success can be evaluated. Attainable goals are those that can be achieved with the knowledge, skills, abilities and resources available. Finally, timely goals specify measurable results within a specified time frame and prevent procrastination from undermining success. There are three types of goals that can be defined for any new or existing enterprise—strategic, tactical and operational. Strategic goals define what you are trying to achieve. When you have multiple goals, you must determine both what they have in common and where they may be in conflict. Tactical goals define how you are planning to get to your destination and what landmarks you will pass along the way. You should specify the methods you will use and the measures you will select to evaluate progress and success. These are the prerequisites for accomplishing your strategic goals. Operational goals are those day-to-day activities necessary to obtaining the tactical goals. They specify the manner in which the resources available will be used and combined. To understand the hierarchy of goals, remember that management is performed from the top down. Therefore, managers must define the desired outcomes and specify the steps necessary for success. At the same time, the implementation of strategic goals is performed from the bottom up. Managers are also responsible for carrying out those required daily tasks. Landowners are often both manager and employee, which demands a combination of vision and technical aptitude. I believe that setting plans and objectives on your property or land project are important. You might be the kind of typing schedules, dates and hard objectives down or be the type of just setting them in your mind. Either way (and I know farmers in both types of situations) having them and measure them is the important thing. I like to try to set simple goals for a year as: “I would like to get rid of all the weeds in the front 10 acres” or “do soil test every 40 acres in my land” type of goals so you can concentrate in those attainable goals, measure them and show progress. For more information on this or any other agricultural topic please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email us at [email protected].