THE FARM ONE-PAGE BUSINESS  PLAN TEMPLATE

THE FARM ONE-PAGE BUSINESS PLAN TEMPLATE


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So business planning is the focus this week. Now, what do people usually say is the first thing you need before going into business?  They say a business plan, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, your brother, a banker or someone you meet in the coffee shop. They all drink the same Kool-Aid and start chanting, you need a business plan, you need a business plan.

Like lemmings. Like all the people today who chant, you need to define your ideal customer, you need to define your ideal customer. Basically people hear something, think it’s authoritative and just repeat it.

On the surface, it makes sense that we’re told to create a business plan. Because real businesses have business plans, and we want to run a real business, right? But, have you ever seen a comprehensive business plan? Have you written a business plan? And, be honest…do you have a written business plan for your farm?

I’m not saying that planning isn’t necessary, even helpful. But “traditional” business planning is overemphasized, in my view. Just as a college education (usually) is.

And, listen, I’ve written and reviewed a ton of business plans. Many of them well over 100 pages long, full of internal and external analysis, capital allocation plans, key performance goals, market analysis, financial projections, contingency plans, human resources and marketing plans, SWOT analysis, Gantt charts and so on. And you also see a lot of emphasis on exit strategies, which not many new farmers are interested in. Which is too bad. Not because they should necessarily aspire to sell their farm businesses. But because they should build and run them as if they would. That way, they’d be much more successful.

But back to the point about business plans. Why did I create these plans, and were they useful?

Well, most of them I created because I had to. I worked in a Fortune 500 company and we had to create plans to persuade a board of directors, lenders and investors, to make capital allocations.

Later when I founded my own business, I had to create the plans to facilitate funding from venture capitalists, angel investors and banks.

But the key phrase here is “I had to”. So, I did. But what happened to the plans after I created them?

They got filed away, in the old days. Later as technology took over, they got stuck in a digital folder. But in both cases, they collected physical and digital dust.

In the corporate world, the business plans were useful for upper management to admonish me if I missed projections. They could say, “here’s what you said you’d do” and point to any gaps that existed. Fortunately, that was rarely the case for me, but that was how the plan was used.

When dealing with lenders, especially banks, with my own business, the business plan supposedly established that I was serious about my business—because I had obviously put a great deal of thought into my strategy.

Of course, my financial projections always looked exactly like everyone else’s. In other words, like a hockey stick. Hockey stick financial projections. A hockey stick financial projection is one that shows a slow or flat start, and then magically rockets up for future years just like the blade of a hockey stick.

We all do this. Entrepreneurs can’t help themselves. We’re too optimistic. We create spreadsheets, make projections of how we’re going to add customers every month, every quarter, and add new products or raise prices.

So we’ll continually sell more and earn more. Then, when we look at it and say, “that’s too good to be true,” we create additional models.

“I’ll create a conservative, a realistic and an aggressive projection,” we tell ourselves. So we do.

And then we get on to running our businesses.

And find that, almost always, our plans were flat out wrong.

These over-the-top business plan templates may be helpful if your business is raising capital. Or if you’re seeking serious lending, I’m sure your lender will require it. But, for 90% of us, at least, they are a waste of time.

So, today, I’m going to walk you through a simple planning guide that will help you answer everything that’s important, and chart your farm down a successful path. And, get this—you only need to answer eight questions! That’s it, 8 questions and you’ll have your business strategy laid out.

But before I walk you through those questions and the one-page business plan, let me go through a few reasons for why I don’t think you need to waste time on traditional business planning.

  • The first reason is that focusing on a business plan may interfere with you ever having a business. Why? Because spending too much time planning can lead to paralysis by analysis. I’ve seen LOTS of folks who wanted to start a business, farm or otherwise. So they set to writing a business plan, usually with one of countless business plan templates. Then the would-be entrepreneur writes a first pass, and edits, tweaks, tweaks, tweaks and basically falls into a loop of ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim—and they never get started. And you want to avoid anything that impedes your ability to start with your business. So, do you think I’m saying you shouldn’t plan a strategy for your business? Of course not! What do you think I am, crazy? No, you should have a plan. But it should be a very simple, actionable guide more than a plan, and I’ll walk you through exactly what you need in a moment.
  • Another reason you don’t want to waste time on a long, drawn-out business plan is that businesses NEVER go as planned. You know that.  You win, you lose—you have big advances and big setbacks. So you pivot, make adjustments and figure things out as you go. Look—businesses are dynamic and ever-changing. But business plans are static in nature and lack flexibility. So what the hell good are they unless you’re gonna go in and change them every week? And if you are, what do you need the plan for anyway? Just make the necessary changes to your business and get on with it.
  • Finally, another reason to stay away from traditional business plans is that they can lock you in, psychologically. Because once you write something down—like, maybe you’re gonna raise heritage turkeys—then you think you have to stick with it. When, otherwise, you may recognize in short order it’s a bad idea and you can make an adjustment. Let’s think of this another way. It’s October, so let’s talk football.  So imagine the absolutely despised, hated New England Patriots are playing my Pittsburgh Steelers. Bill Belichick, the evil coach of the hated, cheating Patriots creates a game plan to beat my honest, hard-working Steelers. But when his team falls far behind in the first quarter do you think he says, “well, I’ll just keep doing what we planned because I wrote it all down?” Hell no! He’ll make adjustments on the fly WAY before going into the locker room at halftime, his quarterback, Tom Brady will deflate the ball, they’ll come back and the refs will award them the game. So just as an NFL coach needs to be flexible and make adjustments in real time based on what they’re seeing, so do you. Their game plan is just that…a back of the napkin guide.

So, if you don’t need a traditional business plan, what do you need? In football, you need a game plan, of course. For your farm, I think you want to start with a one-page business plan. If you’re part of the Small Farm Nation Academy, you’ve no doubt seen my lesson on this and have probably created your own.

If you’re not part of the Academy you can still watch my lesson on it and get your own FREE one-page business plan template. Just hop over to smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign-up for the FREE training series. I’ll walk you through how to create your own plan and give you a template for you to customize.

For now, let me just describe the process. And I’ll dispense with all the gobbledey gook and business jargon. Let’s just concentrate on the EIGHT key questions that I think you need to answer.

These 8 questions make up the grid of the one-page business plan. Picture a 3X3 grid. The 8 questions fill those boxes, surrounding you in the center box in the grid and your ultimate competitive advantage.

So here are the 8 questions you want to ask yourself.

  • Why are you farming? This is your mission. You want to ask yourself, what am I passionate about? What are my goals? What do I hope to accomplish with my business? WHY is this important? Your personal answers to these questions will galvanize into your mission. When you answer them clearly and honestly, you’ll know exactly why you want to start your business.
  • Who will care and why? These are your customer segments, the folks who will buy from you and support you. Here’s what you want to answer. Are you targeting a local, regional or national market? If you’re targeting a niche, what niche are you targeting? And rather than thinking of an ideal customer, what do your target customer segments have in common? What do they each want from you? Is your customer the end user…the consumer? Or is it a wholesaler, distributor or retailer? Do your target customers need education…in other words, do they already know they have a need for what you’ll offer, or do you need to make them aware and educate them?
  • How will you go to market? As a farm business, you’ll have many options. Will you sell via farmers markets, a farm stand, online with e-commerce, via distributors, to restaurants, via a CSA or buying club, or what? Importantly, is your distribution channel aligned with your chosen competitive advantage? We’ll get to that in a moment.
  • What will you sell? These are your revenue streams; your products. So, you want to answer, what products will I sell? How will I price them? How does my pricing strategy compare to competitors and alternatives? Will I have one fixed price per product or product unit (per pound, for instance)? Or will I offer discounted prices for larger orders?
  • What is your cost structure? Here you want to ask yourself, what are the critical costs in my model? What are the most important metrics? How will I measure those metrics daily/weekly/monthly? What key resources could increase in cost that I have no control over? Feed costs, for instance. How can I respond if costs increase? What are my fixed costs that I can’t reduce or eliminate? What variable costs can I manage?
  • What alternatives are there to you? This is where you assess the competitive landscape. Ask yourself, how do I define my marketplace? Who else offers what I will offer in my marketplace? Those are your direct competitors. It could be a grocery store, even though your farm business looks nothing like a grocery store. Also ask yourself, who are the indirect competitors—the alternative choices my customers have? Who are the potential new competitors that could emerge?
  • What determines your success? These are your critical success factors. Here you’ll want to answer, how can I effectively attract customers? Will customers pay the prices I need? Can I navigate regulatory hurdles? Do I have the necessary legal structure, accounting and insurance in place to protect myself? Can I produce a product consistent with the quality I’m promoting? Do I have access to contingency and funding resources should I fail to achieve projections?
  • How is your farm business unique? This is your defensible competitive advantage. This is really important and I want you to address this before ever starting a business. Choose your desired advantage, then execute to make it a reality. Here you’ll ask, what is my defensible competitive advantage? By defensible I mean just that. What advantage can you create over competitive forces that you can DEFEND. For example, if you start a local pastured poultry business and offer fresh, pasture raised chickens, can you defend that as an advantage? I’d say, NO, you can’t. Because what’s to stop someone else from popping up and doing the same the moment they see how successful you are. You also want to ask yourself, “am I executing a value strategy (high price, differentiated offering) or a cost strategy (low price, low costs). That’s a hugely critical question because you must choose between the two. Finally, ask yourself this. Why will customers choose me over competing alternatives (other farms, supermarkets, growing their own food, etc)? Why? When you answer these questions, you’ll know your competitive advantage and why you’ll be successful, even before you start. And if you can’t answer them, you’re not likely to succeed.

So, those are the 8 questions. And you can answer each of them and all the sub-questions I just listed on a one-page business plan like the one I’ve created for you.

This plan is important…kind of like the blueprint to your house. It doesn’t mean you can’t refine it later, but I can’t think of anything more important to the success of your farm business than thinking through these key questions and arriving at how you will achieve your competitive advantage.

Again, if you’d like to watch a video of me taking you through this exercise, and get your own free one-page farm business plan template, just hop over to smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign-up for the FREE training series.

I hope you sign up and get it. This one-page business plan will simplify your business strategy and force you to focus on what’s really critical to your success.

Grab it now at smallfarmnationacademy.com, and position yourself to get growing.

Thanks for Listening!

To help the show:

Thanks for listening. Until next time!

Learn to become a farm entrepreneur

Learn to become a farm entrepreneur


Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So we’re going to talk about entrepreneurship. Of course, if you start a farm business, or any business, you’re an entrepreneur, right? Because an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses and assumes financial risks in order to do so.

One of the most influential books on entrepreneurship is called the E-Myth : Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About it. It was written by Michael Gerber and first published in the mid-‘80s. The basic premise of the book was that most businesses are started by people with tangible business skills, when in fact most are started by “technicians” who know nothing about running a business. Therefore, most fail.

Now, be honest…when you started your farm, did you think you were starting a business? Or did you think you were just farming?

Gerber’s research with thousands of entrepreneurs led him to discover that entrepreneurs have three distinct personalities, which he calls the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician.

  • Essentially, an Entrepreneur changes the business. 
  • A manager runs the business. 
  • A technician masters a specific craft.

It’s a very powerful metaphor that, I think, is mostly true. And it’s at the heart of why most farmers struggle greatly with their farming businesses.

Now, as a small business owner, I bet you sometimes feel you have to be at least three people at the same time, right? Just as Gerber said in the e-Myth. This is the case with many professions—here, let’s take the example of a mythical doctor.

Our doctor—we’ll just call him Doc—our friend, Doc, here, wants to start his own practice.

He has extensive education and has devoted years to perfecting his craft.

Ah, but medical schools teach the practice of medicine, not the business of medicine.

So no matter how good a doctor he is, that expertise won’t help him with marketing, managing cash flow, operations, employee relations or any other task critical in creating a successful business.

For the most part, Doc is a highly skilled, highly paid technician.

But what about you? Do you think you’re primarily one personality or the other?

Let’s find out.

Let’s take a look at the three personality types and how they think. Again, the personality types that are trapped inside you are Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician.

Let’s start with the Entrepreneur. This is your inner visionary. The personality that sees the future first, then endeavors to pave a path from the present to that imagined future.

Our Entrepreneur asks questions like:

  • What sort of farm should I start?
  • What’s my vision for this farm business? What’s our mission?
  • How must this farm business work?
  • What will my competitive advantages be?
  • How will I go to market?
  • I see my long-term vision, so I’ll change what we’re doing now to match that vision.

So the Entrepreneur inside us thinks big picture and long-term. But alongside the Entrepreneur vying for equal attention and influence is our Manager.

The Manager inside us is the personality that creates order out of the Entrepreneur’s chaos and is constantly stressed by the Entrepreneur and Technician.

In a farm business, our Manager personality thinks about things like:

  • When can I get an appointment at the meat processor?
  • Who do I call to get an egg candling license?
  • How do I manage my farm tour?
  • I need to arrange a team to process chickens.
  • How do I manage CSA orders?
  • How do I recruit and manage farm apprentices?
  • What’s my breeding schedule look like for the dairy operation?

So when you find yourself asking those kinds of questions or thinking like that, your Entrepreneur is not in charge. Your Manager is.

But there’s yet one more personality hiding inside you, Sybil. And that personality is your Technician.

If you’re a farmer, I fear you know this person all too well. The Technician is the one who lives in the present and doesn’t want to hear about lofty goals. He’s much too busy for that because he’s the “doer”.

How do you know when your Technician is running the show? It’s when you’re thinking:

  • What farm chores do I need to do right now?
  • How can I fix this irrigation leak?
  • I need to weed this afternoon and then repair the fence lines.
  • I need to catch up all the chickens for processing.
  • The hay needs to be cut and put away.
  • I see what we’re doing now on the farm, and I want it to stay that way just the way it is.
  • Why do we have to have these farm tours? I don’t have time for this!

the e-myth

I bet you can relate to these three personalities within, the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician. And, the thing is, we need each of these roles to achieve our entrepreneurial dream.

BUT—Only as long as they get EQUAL time. So you gotta ask yourself—do they?

And, of course, the answer is no. Not by a long shot.

In Gerber’s research, he found that the Entrepreneur inside you gets only about 10% of your time. This personality gets more when you’re dreaming and thinking about starting your business, but you quickly ditch him once you start up.

Then, for a brief moment, the Manager takes over. But the Manager only gets about 20% of a typical business owner’s time.

An overwhelming 70% of the business owner’s time is devoted to the Technician personality.

e-myth technician

And that’s a recipe for disaster, for while the Technician knows how to do the work in front of her, she doesn’t hold the vision for or the mission of the business, and she doesn’t have the generalist skills to know how the parts fit together.

Like a Technician in any business, she needs a Manager to assign priorities, tasks, and objectives. Without that, the Technician hits the wall.

In our world, that means she can plant seeds, milk a cow or make some soap, but she can’t figure out how to grow a profitable farm business without becoming a slave to the farm.

Because she doesn’t have that skillset and perspective. So, she just buries her head in the soil and embraces distractions, saying to herself, “I’ve got to collect and clean these eggs, so I don’t have time to figure out our marketing strategy.”

And these are the kinds of things that lead to burnout on the farm, or in any small business.

Now, a big part of the problem is that our Technician buries her head because she thinks she’s not an Entrepreneur. After all, she has no experience as an Entrepreneur.

So, what can she do? What can you do?

You must embrace the fact that, while you are a person, your farm is a business. And it’s a separate entity from you. Because you are not your business.

This is critical to understand because the purpose of your life is NOT to serve your farm business. The purpose of your farm business is to serve your life!

But…to be fair, here’s where some entrepreneurial guru thinking, such as that in the E-Myth, breaks down when it comes to farming.

Most of us were drawn to farming not because we thought of earning money. We were drawn to the lifestyle or simply because we enjoy farm work.

Sure, maybe some of us wanted to get away from our other job, but that’s why we were drawn to the lifestyle.

That’s all well and good, but, remember how I sometimes ask if you have a business or a hobby?

Now you must answer the critical question of which one do you WANT…a business or a hobby.

If you want a hobby and that’s it, you can stop here and just go back outside and play with in the soil with your animals.

But, if you want a business…if you want or need to earn income from your farming efforts, if you want your farm to succeed, you must ACHIEVE BALANCE between your multiple personalities.

And to have a business and avoid burnout, you must take the Technician OUT OF the driver’s seat.

Here’s how to do that. after me.

  • Repeat after me… I’M RUNNING A PROFITABLE BUSINESS! THIS IS NOT A MONEY-SUCKING HOBBY! (seriously, say it).
  • Schedule two hours every day to work ON YOUR FARM BUSINESS, and not IN IT. You’re going to do that with a tool I have called the TAME THE TECHNICIAN CALENDAR.
      • Divide the two hours you’ll work ON your business into 30-minute blocks; 4 blocks each morning
      • In each block, have a specific critical task to accomplish or decision to make
      • Prioritize business strategy and marketing
  • During those two hours, have social media and your cell phone off. Only turn on your phone if you must make a call. No distractions.
  • This will still give you at least six-eight hours a day for farm work.
  • Devote an hour each weekend to planning your blocks for the following week

Okay, sounds great in theory. But how do you actually do that?

Simple—YOU PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR!

Listen, don’t you put planting dates on the calendar? Calving schedules? Processing dates and times?

That’s your Manager and Technician dominating, and we need them. That’s not the problem.

The problem is your Entrepreneur is asleep, giving us not even 10%.

WAKE UP YOUR FARMPRENERUR by blocking out two hours a day for him to work.

And listen, some of these “Entrepreneurial” tasks we’ll do, such as updating the website, are not at all strategic. They’re tactical.

That’s okay, because as small farmers and small business owners you may very well have to do it all. That’s okay, as long as we recognize what’s happening here.

The Entrepreneur and Manager is in charge, not the Technician.

When you design a lead magnet, the Technician does the work. But you, as Manager, called this meeting, and ensure we stick to a schedule to create, use and promote the lead magnet.

Look, I know this may be difficult to visualize. But I have a great tool here to help you. It’s called Tame the Technician. It’s a PDF that both shows you an example of how to assign a calendar to each of your three personalities, and has a blank, fillable section for you to create your own calendar. Get it FREE at smallfarmnation.com/technician. That’s at smallfarmnation.com/technician.

So, how might you use this tool to allocate time to your manager and entrepreneur?

Okay, let me pull out my Tame the Technician Calendar. Let’s say it’s Wednesday, and I’m going to devote two hours today working ON my business.

I’ve divided these two hours into four 30-minute blocks. I’m going to do two blocks for a total of one hour in the morning, and two more blocks this afternoon.

In the first block this morning I’m going to study menus of top-tier restaurants I’d like to target. And I’ll research the backgrounds of chefs at those restaurants, particularly recent news.

In my second 30-minute block this morning, I’ll write a restaurant call script. Or refine one based on how chefs responded to my last call. Then, I’ll take 10 minutes and rehearse the call aloud with a phone in my hand.

In the two 30-minute blocks this afternoon, I have it on my calendar to call chefs at my next 5 target restaurants. My goal is to arrange a specific time to visit and introduce my products.

That’s it. All that is on my calendar, it’s strategically important to the success of my farm, so it’s gonna get done.

And then I’ll go out and weed, seed, feed and all those things my Technician is clamoring to do.

So look—It’s really important you grab and use this tool because here’s a promise I’ll make to you.

If you do not schedule this important strategic stuff, it will not get done. The technician in you WILL win, he’ll ALWAYS win.

The Technician within you WILL dominate and you’ll spend your time fighting garden pests and pulling carrots for non-existent customers.

So, as an Entrepreneur, you need to hold yourself accountable. There’s not a boss to do that for you anymore. You gotta do it.

Because having a business is a real, serious thing. Just ask the IRS.

It’s why we have LLCs, tax filings, permits and a bunch of other compliance requirements that, while I wish didn’t exist, do.

So since your farm business is a real, serious thing, it needs you to seriously lead and manage the business rather than simply slaving away inside it.

So hold yourself accountable and track how you spend your time,because what gets measured, gets done.

Now, go to smallfarmnation.com/technician, grab the tool and put your Entrepreneur back where he or she belongs.

In charge of your farm business!

To help the show:

Thanks for listening. Until next time!

How to be an entrepreneur

How to be an entrepreneur


Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So it’s strategy week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And we’re going to talk about entrepreneurship.

Of course, if you start a farm business, or any business, you’re an entrepreneur, right? Because an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses and assumes financial risks in order to do so.

One of the most influential books on entrepreneurship is called the E-Myth : Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About it. It was written by Michael Gerber and first published in the mid-‘80s.

The basic premise of the book was that most businesses are started by people with tangible business skills, when in fact most are started by “technicians” who know nothing about running a business. Therefore, most fail.

Now, be honest…when you started your farm, did you think you were starting a business? Or did you think you were just farming?

Gerber’s research with thousands of entrepreneurs led him to discover that entrepreneurs have three distinct personalities, which he calls the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician.

  • Essentially, an Entrepreneur changes the business. 
  • A manager runs the business. 
  • A technician masters a specific craft.

It’s a very powerful metaphor that, I think, is mostly true. And it’s at the heart of why most farmers struggle greatly with their farming businesses.

Now, as a small business owner, I bet you sometimes feel you have to be at least three people at the same time, right? Just as Gerber said in the e-Myth. This is the case with many professions—here, let’s take the example of a mythical doctor.

Our doctor—we’ll just call him Doc—our friend, Doc, here, wants to start his own practice.

He has extensive education and has devoted years to perfecting his craft.

Ah, but medical schools teach the practice of medicine, not the business of medicine.

So no matter how good a doctor he is, that expertise won’t help him with marketing, managing cash flow, operations, employee relations or any other task critical in creating a successful business.

For the most part, Doc is a highly skilled, highly paid technician.

But what about you? Do you think you’re primarily one personality or the other?

Let’s find out.

Let’s take a look at the three personality types and how they think. Again, the personality types that are trapped inside you are Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician.

Let’s start with the Entrepreneur. This is your inner visionary. The personality that sees the future first, then endeavors to pave a path from the present to that imagined future.

Our Entrepreneur asks questions like:

  • What sort of farm should I start?
  • What’s my vision for this farm business? What’s our mission?
  • How must this farm business work?
  • What will my competitive advantages be?
  • How will I go to market?
  • I see my long-term vision, so I’ll change what we’re doing now to match that vision.

So the Entrepreneur inside us thinks big picture and long-term. But alongside the Entrepreneur vying for equal attention and influence is our Manager.

The Manager inside us is the personality that creates order out of the Entrepreneur’s chaos and is constantly stressed by the Entrepreneur and Technician.

In a farm business, our Manager personality thinks about things like:

  • When can I get an appointment at the meat processor?
  • Who do I call to get an egg candling license?
  • How do I manage my farm tour?
  • I need to arrange a team to process chickens.
  • How do I manage CSA orders?
  • How do I recruit and manage farm apprentices?
  • What’s my breeding schedule look like for the dairy operation?

So when you find yourself asking those kinds of questions or thinking like that, your Entrepreneur is not in charge. Your Manager is.

But there’s yet one more personality hiding inside you, Sybil. And that personality is your Technician.

If you’re a farmer, I fear you know this person all too well. The Technician is the one who lives in the present and doesn’t want to hear about lofty goals. He’s much too busy for that because he’s the “doer”.

How do you know when your Technician is running the show? It’s when you’re thinking:

  • What farm chores do I need to do right now?
  • How can I fix this irrigation leak?
  • I need to weed this afternoon and then repair the fence lines.
  • I need to catch up all the chickens for processing.
  • The hay needs to be cut and put away.
  • I see what we’re doing now on the farm, and I want it to stay that way just the way it is.
  • Why do we have to have these farm tours? I don’t have time for this!

the e-myth

I bet you can relate to these three personalities within, the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician. And, the thing is, we need each of these roles to achieve our entrepreneurial dream.

BUT—Only as long as they get EQUAL time. So you gotta ask yourself—do they?

And, of course, the answer is no. Not by a long shot.

In Gerber’s research, he found that the Entrepreneur inside you gets only about 10% of your time. This personality gets more when you’re dreaming and thinking about starting your business, but you quickly ditch him once you start up.

Then, for a brief moment, the Manager takes over. But the Manager only gets about 20% of a typical business owner’s time.

An overwhelming 70% of the business owner’s time is devoted to the Technician personality.

e-myth technician

And that’s a recipe for disaster, for while the Technician knows how to do the work in front of her, she doesn’t hold the vision for or the mission of the business, and she doesn’t have the generalist skills to know how the parts fit together.

Like a Technician in any business, she needs a Manager to assign priorities, tasks, and objectives. Without that, the Technician hits the wall.

In our world, that means she can plant seeds, milk a cow or make some soap, but she can’t figure out how to grow a profitable farm business without becoming a slave to the farm.

Because she doesn’t have that skillset and perspective. So, she just buries her head in the soil and embraces distractions, saying to herself, “I’ve got to collect and clean these eggs, so I don’t have time to figure out our marketing strategy.”

And these are the kinds of things that lead to burnout on the farm, or in any small business.

Now, a big part of the problem is that our Technician buries her head because she thinks she’s not an Entrepreneur. After all, she has no experience as an Entrepreneur.

So, what can she do? What can you do?

You must embrace the fact that, while you are a person, your farm is a business. And it’s a separate entity from you. Because you are not your business.

This is critical to understand because the purpose of your life is NOT to serve your farm business. The purpose of your farm business is to serve your life!

But…to be fair, here’s where some entrepreneurial guru thinking, such as that in the E-Myth, breaks down when it comes to farming.

Most of us were drawn to farming not because we thought of earning money. We were drawn to the lifestyle or simply because we enjoy farm work.

Sure, maybe some of us wanted to get away from our other job, but that’s why we were drawn to the lifestyle.

That’s all well and good, but, remember how I sometimes ask if you have a business or a hobby?

Now you must answer the critical question of which one do you WANT…a business or a hobby.

If you want a hobby and that’s it, you can stop here and just go back outside and play with in the soil with your animals.

But, if you want a business…if you want or need to earn income from your farming efforts, if you want your farm to succeed, you must ACHIEVE BALANCE between your multiple personalities.

And to have a business and avoid burnout, you must take the Technician OUT OF the driver’s seat.

Here’s how to do that. after me.

  • Repeat after me… I’M RUNNING A PROFITABLE BUSINESS! THIS IS NOT A MONEY-SUCKING HOBBY! (seriously, say it).
  • Schedule two hours every day to work ON YOUR FARM BUSINESS, and not IN IT. You’re going to do that with a tool I have called the TAME THE TECHNICIAN CALENDAR.
      • Divide the two hours you’ll work ON your business into 30-minute blocks; 4 blocks each morning
      • In each block, have a specific critical task to accomplish or decision to make
      • Prioritize business strategy and marketing
  • During those two hours, have social media and your cell phone off. Only turn on your phone if you must make a call. No distractions.
  • This will still give you at least six-eight hours a day for farm work.
  • Devote an hour each weekend to planning your blocks for the following week

Okay, sounds great in theory. But how do you actually do that?

Simple—YOU PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR!

Listen, don’t you put planting dates on the calendar? Calving schedules? Processing dates and times?

That’s your Manager and Technician dominating, and we need them. That’s not the problem.

The problem is your Entrepreneur is asleep, giving us not even 10%.

WAKE UP YOUR FARMPRENERUR by blocking out two hours a day for him to work.

And listen, some of these “Entrepreneurial” tasks we’ll do, such as updating the website, are not at all strategic. They’re tactical.

That’s okay, because as small farmers and small business owners you may very well have to do it all. That’s okay, as long as we recognize what’s happening here.

The Entrepreneur and Manager is in charge, not the Technician.

When you design a lead magnet, the Technician does the work. But you, as Manager, called this meeting, and ensure we stick to a schedule to create, use and promote the lead magnet.

Look, I know this may be difficult to visualize. But I have a great tool here to help you. It’s called Tame the Technician. It’s a PDF that both shows you an example of how to assign a calendar to each of your three personalities, and has a blank, fillable section for you to create your own calendar. Get it FREE at smallfarmnation.com/technician. That’s at smallfarmnation.com/technician.

So, how might you use this tool to allocate time to your manager and entrepreneur?

Okay, let me pull out my Tame the Technician Calendar. Let’s say it’s Wednesday, and I’m going to devote two hours today working ON my business.

I’ve divided these two hours into four 30-minute blocks. I’m going to do two blocks for a total of one hour in the morning, and two more blocks this afternoon.

In the first block this morning I’m going to study menus of top-tier restaurants I’d like to target. And I’ll research the backgrounds of chefs at those restaurants, particularly recent news.

In my second 30-minute block this morning, I’ll write a restaurant call script. Or refine one based on how chefs responded to my last call. Then, I’ll take 10 minutes and rehearse the call aloud with a phone in my hand.

In the two 30-minute blocks this afternoon, I have it on my calendar to call chefs at my next 5 target restaurants. My goal is to arrange a specific time to visit and introduce my products.

That’s it. All that is on my calendar, it’s strategically important to the success of my farm, so it’s gonna get done.

And then I’ll go out and weed, seed, feed and all those things my Technician is clamoring to do.

So look—It’s really important you grab and use this tool because here’s a promise I’ll make to you.

If you do not schedule this important strategic stuff, it will not get done. The technician in you WILL win, he’ll ALWAYS win.

The Technician within you WILL dominate and you’ll spend your time fighting garden pests and pulling carrots for non-existent customers.

So, as an Entrepreneur, you need to hold yourself accountable. There’s not a boss to do that for you anymore. You gotta do it.

Because having a business is a real, serious thing. Just ask the IRS.

It’s why we have LLCs, tax filings, permits and a bunch of other compliance requirements that, while I wish didn’t exist, do.

So since your farm business is a real, serious thing, it needs you to seriously lead and manage the business rather than simply slaving away inside it.

So hold yourself accountable and track how you spend your time,because what gets measured, gets done.

Now, go to smallfarmnation.com/technician, grab the tool and put your Entrepreneur back where he or she belongs.

In charge of your farm business!

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One-Page Farm Business Plan

One-Page Farm Business Plan


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So it’s strategy week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And nothing says “strategy” more than business planning, so that’s the focus this week.

Now, what do people usually say is the first thing you need before going into business?

They say a business plan, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, your brother, a banker or someone you meet in the coffee shop. They all drink the same Kool-Aid and start chanting, you need a business plan, you need a business plan.

Like lemmings. Like all the people today who chant, you need to define your ideal customer, you need to define your ideal customer. Basically people hear something, think it’s authoritative and just repeat it.

On the surface, it makes sense that we’re told to create a business plan. Because real businesses have business plans, and we want to run a real business, right? But, have you ever seen a comprehensive business plan? Have you written a business plan? And, be honest…do you have a written business plan for your farm?

I’m not saying that planning isn’t necessary, even helpful. But “traditional” business planning is overemphasized, in my view. Just as a college education often is.

And, listen, I’ve written and reviewed a ton of business plans. Many of them well over 100 pages long, full of internal and external analysis, capital allocation plans, key performance goals, market analysis, financial projections, contingency plans, human resources and marketing plans, SWOT analysis, Gantt charts and so on. And you also see a lot of emphasis on exit strategies, which not many new farmers are interested in. Which is too bad. Not because they should necessarily aspire to sell their farm businesses. But because they should build and run them as if they would. That way, they’d be much more successful.

But back to the point about business plans. Why did I create these plans, and were they useful?

Well, most of them I created because I had to. I worked in a Fortune 500 company and we had to create plans to persuade a board of directors, lenders and investors, to make capital allocations.

Later when I founded my own business, I had to create the plans to facilitate funding from venture capitalists, angel investors and banks.

But the key phrase here is “I had to”. So, I did. But what happened to the plans after I created them?

They got filed away, in the old days. Later as technology took over, they got stuck in a digital folder. But in both cases, they collected physical and digital dust.

In the corporate world, the business plans were useful for upper management to admonish me if I missed projections. They could say, “here’s what you said you’d do” and point to any gaps that existed. Fortunately, that was rarely the case for me, but that was how the plan was used.

When dealing with lenders, especially banks, with my own business, the business plan supposedly established that I was serious about my business—because I had obviously put a great deal of thought into my strategy.

Of course, my financial projections always looked exactly like everyone else’s. In other words, like a hockey stick. Hockey stick financial projections. A hockey stick financial projection is one that shows a slow or flat start, and then magically rockets up for future years just like the blade of a hockey stick.

We all do this. Entrepreneurs can’t help themselves. We’re too optimistic. We create spreadsheets, make projections of how we’re going to add customers every month, every quarter, and add new products or raise prices.

So we’ll continually sell more and earn more. Then, when we look at it and say, “that’s too good to be true,” we create additional models.

“I’ll create a conservative, a realistic and an aggressive projection,” we tell ourselves. So we do.

And then we get on to running our businesses.

And find that, almost always, our plans were flat out wrong.

These over-the-top business plan templates may be helpful if your business is raising capital. Or if you’re seeking serious lending, I’m sure your lender will require it. But, for 90% of us, at least, they are a waste of time.

So, today, I’m going to walk you through a simple planning guide that will help you answer everything that’s important, and chart your farm down a successful path. And, get this—you only need to answer eight questions! That’s it, 8 questions and you’ll have your business strategy laid out.

But before I walk you through those questions and the one-page business plan, let me go through a few reasons for why I don’t think you need to waste time on traditional business planning.

  • The first reason is that focusing on a business plan may interfere with you ever having a business. Why? Because spending too much time planning can lead to paralysis by analysis. I’ve seen LOTS of folks who wanted to start a business, farm or otherwise. So they set to writing a business plan, usually with one of countless business plan templates. Then the would-be entrepreneur writes a first pass, and edits, tweaks, tweaks, tweaks and basically falls into a loop of ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim—and they never get started. And you want to avoid anything that impedes your ability to start with your business. So, do you think I’m saying you shouldn’t plan a strategy for your business? Of course not! What do you think I am, crazy? No, you should have a plan. But it should be a very simple, actionable guide more than a plan, and I’ll walk you through exactly what you need in a moment.
  • Another reason you don’t want to waste time on a long, drawn-out business plan is that businesses NEVER go as planned. You know that.  You win, you lose—you have big advances and big setbacks. So you pivot, make adjustments and figure things out as you go. Look—businesses are dynamic and ever-changing. But business plans are static in nature and lack flexibility. So what the hell good are they unless you’re gonna go in and change them every week? And if you are, what do you need the plan for anyway? Just make the necessary changes to your business and get on with it.
  • Finally, another reason to stay away from traditional business plans is that they can lock you in, psychologically. Because once you write something down—like, maybe you’re gonna raise heritage turkeys—then you think you have to stick with it. When, otherwise, you may recognize in short order it’s a bad idea and you can make an adjustment. Let’s think of this another way. It’s October, so let’s talk football.  So imagine the absolutely despised, hated New England Patriots are playing my Pittsburgh Steelers. Bill Belichick, the evil coach of the hated, cheating Patriots creates a game plan to beat my honest, hard-working Steelers. But when his team falls far behind in the first quarter do you think he says, “well, I’ll just keep doing what we planned because I wrote it all down?” Hell no! He’ll make adjustments on the fly WAY before going into the locker room at halftime, his quarterback, Tom Brady will deflate the ball, they’ll come back and the refs will award them the game. So just as an NFL coach needs to be flexible and make adjustments in real time based on what they’re seeing, so do you. Their game plan is just that…a back of the napkin guide.

So, if you don’t need a traditional business plan, what do you need? In football, you need a game plan, of course. For your farm, I think you want to start with a one-page business plan. If you’re part of the Small Farm Nation Academy, you’ve no doubt seen my lesson on this and have probably created your own.

If you’re not part of the Academy you can still watch my lesson on it and get your own FREE one-page business plan template. Just hop over to smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign-up for the FREE training series. I’ll walk you through how to create your own plan and give you a template for you to customize.

For now, let me just describe the process. And I’ll dispense with all the gobbledey gook and business jargon. Let’s just concentrate on the EIGHT key questions that I think you need to answer.

These 8 questions make up the grid of the one-page business plan. Picture a 3X3 grid. The 8 questions fill those boxes, surrounding you in the center box in the grid and your ultimate competitive advantage.

So here are the 8 questions you want to ask yourself.

  • Why are you farming? This is your mission. You want to ask yourself, what am I passionate about? What are my goals? What do I hope to accomplish with my business? WHY is this important? Your personal answers to these questions will galvanize into your mission. When you answer them clearly and honestly, you’ll know exactly why you want to start your business.
  • Who will care and why? These are your customer segments, the folks who will buy from you and support you. Here’s what you want to answer. Are you targeting a local, regional or national market? If you’re targeting a niche, what niche are you targeting? And rather than thinking of an ideal customer, what do your target customer segments have in common? What do they each want from you? Is your customer the end user…the consumer? Or is it a wholesaler, distributor or retailer? Do your target customers need education…in other words, do they already know they have a need for what you’ll offer, or do you need to make them aware and educate them?
  • How will you go to market? As a farm business, you’ll have many options. Will you sell via farmers markets, a farm stand, online with e-commerce, via distributors, to restaurants, via a CSA or buying club, or what? Importantly, is your distribution channel aligned with your chosen competitive advantage? We’ll get to that in a moment.
  • What will you sell? These are your revenue streams; your products. So, you want to answer, what products will I sell? How will I price them? How does my pricing strategy compare to competitors and alternatives? Will I have one fixed price per product or product unit (per pound, for instance)? Or will I offer discounted prices for larger orders?
  • What is your cost structure? Here you want to ask yourself, what are the critical costs in my model? What are the most important metrics? How will I measure those metrics daily/weekly/monthly? What key resources could increase in cost that I have no control over? Feed costs, for instance. How can I respond if costs increase? What are my fixed costs that I can’t reduce or eliminate? What variable costs can I manage?
  • What alternatives are there to you? This is where you assess the competitive landscape. Ask yourself, how do I define my marketplace? Who else offers what I will offer in my marketplace? Those are your direct competitors. It could be a grocery store, even though your farm business looks nothing like a grocery store. Also ask yourself, who are the indirect competitors—the alternative choices my customers have? Who are the potential new competitors that could emerge?
  • What determines your success? These are your critical success factors. Here you’ll want to answer, how can I effectively attract customers? Will customers pay the prices I need? Can I navigate regulatory hurdles? Do I have the necessary legal structure, accounting and insurance in place to protect myself? Can I produce a product consistent with the quality I’m promoting? Do I have access to contingency and funding resources should I fail to achieve projections?
  • How is your farm business unique? This is your defensible competitive advantage. This is really important and I want you to address this before ever starting a business. Choose your desired advantage, then execute to make it a reality. Here you’ll ask, what is my defensible competitive advantage? By defensible I mean just that. What advantage can you create over competitive forces that you can DEFEND. For example, if you start a local pastured poultry business and offer fresh, pasture raised chickens, can you defend that as an advantage? I’d say, NO, you can’t. Because what’s to stop someone else from popping up and doing the same the moment they see how successful you are. You also want to ask yourself, “am I executing a value strategy (high price, differentiated offering) or a cost strategy (low price, low costs). That’s a hugely critical question because you must choose between the two. Finally, ask yourself this. Why will customers choose me over competing alternatives (other farms, supermarkets, growing their own food, etc)? Why? When you answer these questions, you’ll know your competitive advantage and why you’ll be successful, even before you start. And if you can’t answer them, you’re not likely to succeed.

So, those are the 8 questions. And you can answer each of them and all the sub-questions I just listed on a one-page business plan like the one I’ve created for you.

This plan is important…kind of like the blueprint to your house. It doesn’t mean you can’t refine it later, but I can’t think of anything more important to the success of your farm business than thinking through these key questions and arriving at how you will achieve your competitive advantage.

Again, if you’d like to watch a video of me taking you through this exercise, and get your own free one-page farm business plan template, just hop over to smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign-up for the FREE training series.

I hope you sign up and get it. This one-page business plan will simplify your business strategy and force you to focus on what’s really critical to your success.

Grab it now at smallfarmnationacademy.com, and position yourself to get growing.

Thanks for Listening!

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Do You Have a Farm Business or a Farm Hobby?

Do You Have a Farm Business or a Farm Hobby?

The phrase hobby farm is cute and all, but what’s the difference between a hobby farm and a farming business? In this episode, I’m going to tell you why you might have a farm hobby that costs you money rather than a thriving farm business that earns you money.

So, this topic of understanding the difference between farm hobbies and farm businesses is very important.

It’s an issue I’ve see often with small farmers, as they seem to operate partly as a farm business and partly…or mainly, I should say,…as a hobby farm.

And I understand why this happens when people opt out of other careers for farm life.

What draws them is the idea of working on the land. Of having animals…livestock. Of tending sheep or chickens, collecting eggs, planting seeds, harvesting crops. Of growing food under blue skies to the soothing sounds of birds and bees rather than grating sounds of traffic and ambulances.

And those are all great reasons to embrace farm life.

But, notice I didn’t mention anything about finances? About customers? Because folks are rarely lured into this lifestyle by thoughts of, “I’ve got an idea of how to make a boatload of money farming.”

So, it’s generally not the business plans or finances that lures them to these businesses.

And that’s a shame, because, as you yourself may already know, these ARE businesses.  And they’re not immune to the laws of business. Namely, they need customers and a sales price that far exceeds the production cost.

And, that’s how they would approach any other business, right?

I mean, if someone was stuck in a soul-sucking cubicle job and wanted out, and if they stumbled across an opportunity to start a dry-cleaning operation, wouldn’t they assess it as a business?

They wouldn’t daydream about folding clothes and cleaning suits.

No, they’d assess the business model, get confident with their profit projections and marketing strategy before pulling the trigger on the business.

But this is where farming is different than most businesses.

Not all, because, I know just as many people who have started restaurants, because the love to cook, as those who started farming, because they love to garden.

But just because you can cook doesn’t remotely mean you can run a profitable restaurant.

And ditto for farming.

So the first question you have to ask yourself is do you have a farm business or a farm hobby?

Or if you haven’t started yet, are you committed to having a farm business, or a farm hobby?

Stated differently, will you garden and homestead or will you farm?

If you’re not sure of the difference, here’s one way you can tell.

  • If you’re producing something for YOUR consumption, then you’re either gardening or homesteading.
  • But if you’re producing something for others, then you’re FARMING.

And that “producing something” doesn’t have to be food.

It can be soap, fiber or animal feed. Something produced from the land—-that’s the defining characteristic of a farming business.

Now, if you left a job to become a farmer, you’d tell people that you’re going to farm, wouldn’t you?

Your friends and family would think you went to start a farm, right?

But is that true?

NO!

Because you need this enterprise to MAKE MONEY, don’t you.

And that means it’s a business.

It means, like it or not, that you’re an entrepreneur.

So you must accept the fact that you own a farm BUSINESS or you’re planning on starting a farm business.

And what’s the one thing that EVERY business needs?

CUSTOMERS.

Because customers are the difference between a business and a hobby.

That’s basically what defines a business, isn’t it.

But, the thing is, I still find a lot of people who behave as if their farm business was a hobby.

They focus on chores more than marketing and the “business” struggles to make a difference or achieve the owner’s desires.

I mean, they get up in the morning and dive into farm chores first thing.

They don’t stop to ask if this is the most important STRATEGIC use of their time, or if they’d be better off blocking out two hours to create emails and blog posts.

No…they wake up, weed, feed, seed and operate with the if I build it they will come mentality.

And, most often, they (the customers) don’t come.

So ask yourself…do YOU think of your farm as a business or a hobby?

Here’s how you know if it’s a hobby rather than a business.

When it’s a hobby, you think, what do I want to grow? Or, what do I WANT my garden beds to look like?

You think, look how cute those goats/chicks are…I want one! Or ten!

And I want to build a cute little brood house to hatch the chicks.

You think, I can’t wait to browse the new seed catalog!

But when it’s a business and you’re the entrepreneur, you think differently.

The questions you ask yourself all relate to strategy and profitability.

Questions like:

  • what is my vision for the farm business?
  • what products will I make or produce?
  • why did I choose those? was it profit margins? competitive uniqueness?
  • What do my garden beds NEED to be like to maximize efficiency?
  • Who will I sell my farm products to?
  • How will I go to market and sell my products?
  • Who else makes these products or replacement products?
  • What makes me unique…what’s my defensible competitive advantage?
  • What’s my profit model…how will I make money?

Those are the questions an entrepreneur asks.

They have a vision for what the business can become in the future, and they work to draw a line between the present and that future vision.

Every action they take, every decision they make, is in the context of moving toward that vision. As a result, entrepreneurs work ON their business rather than being trapped IN their business.

They are 100% aware that they OWN A BUSINESS.

That means they understand things like,

  • you’re not keeping cows…you’re running a profitable livestock business
  • you’re not gardening…you’re running a profitable market garden business
  • you’re not raising chickens…you’re running a profitable pastured poultry business
  • you’re not making cheese…you’re running a profitable artisan cheese business
  • you’re not giving a farm tour…you’re running a profitable agritourism business

The bottom line is, you’re running a profitable farming business.

One that just happens to afford you the natural lifestyle you desire.

You left or sacrificed another career choice for this one, but just as that other career paid you money, your job is to make sure your farm or small business MAKES YOU MONEY.

Otherwise, it’s not remotely sustainable.

This is how entrepreneurs think. And, as the owner of a farming business, you’re an entrepreneur, so this is how you must think.

This is really a critical issue, and it’s one of the first course lessons I teach in the Small Farm Nation Academy.

That course is called the Farm Business Mindset, and goes much deeper into this topic.

I recognize that not everyone…not most people, really, feel that they are entrepreneurial.

So I created lessons to show you how to become entrepreneurial and included downloads to help members focus on the critical priorities to build their farm business.

The Farm Business Mindset course includes a lesson on creating a one-page farm business plan, with it’s own downloadable template.

All the other marketing courses in the Small Farm Nation Academy are important too.

The courses on developing your farm brand, WordPress 101, website design, email list building, copywriting, blogging and so on, they’re all important.

And, sometimes members want to jump the gun and dive into those later courses. But the most important lesson is to make sure you have the right foundation in place.

And that means recognizing that you’re not just farming…you’re running a farm business!

Listen in as I help you get on track with your farming BUSINESS!

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When to Start Marketing Your “Future” Farm Business

When to Start Marketing Your “Future” Farm Business

If you’re planning to start a farm—or any small business—when should you start marketing it?

In this post, I explain why you should start marketing your farm or small business BEFORE you even open for business.

So, perhaps you’re planning to jettison your career and start a farming business.  Or maybe you’ve inherited land that can become a business, but you’re not sure when or how to get started.

Regardless, let’s say that you haven’t pulled the trigger yet but you’re committed to becoming an agripreneur.

Now, when most people go down that route—they do it backwards, at least from a typical entrepreneurial perspective. Instead of thinking about the business model, they start by thinking about the resources.

Namely, land—where to find it, how much to pay for it and what to do with it.

Then they get all enamored with the romantic side of farm life—the tranquility, the animals, the soil sifting through their fingers. And they begin to fantasize about starting a farm, but, here’s the thing.

A farm can mean two things. First, it can mean a lifestyle—-a spot of land where you grow food.

Or it can mean something else. It can mean a business that’s located on a spot of land.

An agricultural business that generates not only food, but income to sustain your family.

And, actually, not only income, but it creates assets that appreciate over time, such as livestock, soil fertility, and land value.

But the reason so many approach this process backwards is they don’t make the decision up front of whether they’re committed to running a farm BUSINESS, or having a farm hobby.  Treating the farm as a business rather than a hobby.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a farm business and you’re curious when to start marketing your “future” farm, homestead or online business, here’s the answer.

The answer is Now.  As in, right now.

Now, does that make you nervous? As in, you’re afraid to market and don’t know where or how to begin? And why are we all so afraid to market ourselves anyway?

Well, let’s be honest about that.

Some professions have, rightly or wrongly, a negative stereotype associated with them.  You may have heard the joke, “What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”  The punchline, of course, is “a good start.”

Similarly, many people have the same negative impression of the sales profession. Images of hard-core sales tactics, infomercials, and the outdated “used-car salesman” stereotype persist. As a result, we’re afraid to be lumped into these categories.

But here’s the thing. Effective farm marketing isn’t about “selling” anything to anyone. Rather, it’s about sharing.

So, if you’re thinking, ”Hey, I don’t even have a farm yet. No products, no nothing. So I have nothing to share!”

Well, now…that’s not true, is it? Because you have a story to share, even if you’re just taking your first steps. And the reason you’re taking..or contemplating those steps is a very important part of your story. That’s the part that people will care about and connect with.

So you have an opportunity right now to be open—to be vulnerable, and connect with people on a very emotional level.

How?

By sharing the truth. Your dreams about the life you want to create.Your vision for the change you represent, which could be for the animals, the environment, your community or even personal health reasons.

Or all of them.

And be honest about your fears, because we all have fears. If you’re worried that you don’t know how to farm, or how to run a business, then say so. And that’s all very powerful stuff that connects on an emotional level with an audience in a way that big brands simply can’t match.

So, you don’t have to worry about pushing product, or spouting features and benefits of what you have. You simply get to tell your story and build relationships.

And that, small farm nation, is at the core of effective farm marketing.

Okay, I said you should start marketing now, before you start your farm business.

So why do I think that?

All right, I’ll tell you.

Here are 5 Benefits of marketing your Farm business before you start

Benefit #1. You’ll build a loyal tribe, because you’re allowing others to live vicariously through you. 

Back in 2007 when Liz and I opted-out of the rat race, we created a blog and began sharing our story. This was over a year before we had any farm animals or anything to sell.

What did we write about?  We wrote about why we were moving to the country and what we were hoping to find and accomplish. We shared both our successes and our failures.

We talked about how our values had changed once our eyes were opened, thanks in large part to folks like Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin. And lots of people felt like we did, but, unlike us, they couldn’t up and change their lives like we did.

So they lived vicariously through us.

By the time we had products to sell our fans had been following our footsteps for almost two years.  They felt as if they knew us and we felt like we knew many of them. That’s the basis for a mutually loyal relationship, which is what you want.

I’m sure you’ll find the same for you, just as James and Eileen Ray did of Little Seed FarmThey have a wildly successful artisan goat’s milk soap business in Tennessee.

If you recall from episode 1 of this podcast, James said he also started their blog over a year before even moving to the farm.

Sharing your story with fans and potential customers has a number of benefits to you and your followers.

Now, at this stage, before you launch your farm or small business, effective marketing isn’t about “selling”.

Rather, it’s about sharing.  It’s about building relationships. About bonding.

And that’s what you’re gonna need down the road. You’re gonna need to have bonded with people who will be your champions.

Your loyal tribe, who will not only support you financially, but will cheer for you, recommend you and defend you down the road.

You can’t get that relationship by selling.

Rather, you get those kind of supporters by being open and honest. By revealing your true personality, whether it’s quirky, serious, funny or vulnerable.

Just be you, and let others live vicariously through you as you take this journey.

And that’s what it is, right? A journey you’re taking, in your life. And they get to go along with you.

Because you’re not only changing your life, you’re changing theirs as well by, hopefully, changing what and how they eat, their connection with the land and their local community and, in many cases, letting them live vicariously through you on your farm journey.

So, maybe you buy what I’m saying, but you’re not sure what to do.

I mean, you heard me describe what Liz and I shared, but what should you do?

Okay, before you even start sharing, you’re gonna need a platform.

A soapbox to share from.

Now, I think that should be a website with a blogging platform, and I highly recommend WordPress for that. Better yet, get a FarmPress site.

But, if you must, use Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or whatever. Just create a website already.

Also, create your main social media pages now, which will probably be Facebook.

It could be YouTube too, but YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest may not make sense, since those are highly visual channels and it’s not like you have a lot of animal or farm pics at this stage.

But you decide. Just make sure it’s a platform where you can not only connect, but collect email addresses as well. Because you’re gonna need them.

And don’t create a sloppy farm websiteIf you can’t do it right, then hire someone to help you do it. Great themes aren’t expensive for WordPress and you can get someone to configure them for you pretty cheaply.

I know this may cost money, but this is a business, remember? So we want to look and be professional.

Now, once you set up your platform, start sharing. And start by sharing your back story – who you are and what you’ve been doing.  Just share the highlights—not a brain dump of your whole life—I mean, this isn’t your shrink’s sofa.

And don’t be stiff, like on those corporate or legal sites, where no one seems to have a personality. Be real and give folks a glimpse of who you are, your personality and what’s happened to you.

For instance, check out my “about” page and you’ll get a sense of some stuff I’ve done and experiences I’ve had.

So readers have various ways to relate to and connect with me. So start by sharing the interesting parts of your back story.

And even though I just shared a few things about me, I really only shared about 3 things. Out of the past 30 plus years. And that’s because most of what happens to all of us ISN’T interesting to anyone.

So pick what is interesting and invite people into a relationship with you. But all that stuff is the past.

Readers and listeners (if you go the video or podcast route) will also want to know about the future. So what’s your vision? Why are you here?

Think of it like a story—a novel. What’s the inciting incident that caused you to be where you are now, doing or contemplating what you’re contemplating. Everyone loves a good story, and this is marketing at its purest and easiest.

Well—easiest to understand—not necessarily easiest to accomplish.

Because, let’s be honest, many people don’t like talking about themselves. They think they’re being egotistical or something. And, unless they’re bragging—they’re not.

They’re connecting with other humans.

But another reason it can be challenging to share the story is you have to be a decent writer. And I think many farmers and small business owners either underestimate or don’t appreciate how important wordsmithing and copywriting is. Copywriting is important, if you want to connect with people and get them to keep reading or listening.

So, just as your about page will share your backstory, be sure to also share your vision.

Your mission. Your reason for being. If you can’t wordsmith it properly, hire someone.

Or join the Small Farm Nation Academy and post what you’re struggling with in the forum. Or take the 13-video copywriting course inside the Academy. I’ll help you out.

Once you’ve created your “About” page, shared your background and vision, the rest becomes incremental updates.

And that’s where blogging, podcasting or vlogging with video comes in.

So, you do frequent updates—-not necessarily every day, but with some regularity, if you want people to care about you.

And you do—that’s EXACTLY what you want. Your updates should very openly share what you’re doing, feeling and experiencing.

We were very open with our blog and podcast, sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of sustainable livestock farming. It earned us lots of fans, and even earned me some enemies.

Check out the reviews of The Accidental Farmers on Amazon and you’ll see how many haters I have.

But—and this is important so pay attention—what we wrote and said made people careCare enough to love us or care enough to hate me.  But few were indifferent.

I say hate “me” because no one could possibly hate my darling wife. So the anger comes my way. And, that’s okay—I don’t take it personally, because they don’t even know me. So they don’t really hate me even if they say they do.

They just disagreed with my views or practices, and that’s cool. Gotta love America.

So that’s Benefit # 1—You’ll Build a Loyal Tribe

Now, here’s benefit #2, and it’s of huge importance.

You’ll get a head start on building your most important marketing asset: your email list.

As a result of our blogging, we picked up a steady stream of followers that ultimately grew into a customer list that numbered well over 5,000.  Turns out a lot of people were living their homestead dreams through us, but were tethered to “real jobs” in the city.

So, when you set up your platform—your website and social media presence—you’ll also want to set up an email marketing account.

Might as well start with MailChimp, because it’s free until you get 2,000 subscribers. Many farm businesses never get to that level, so it’s always free for them.

Now, I’ve used lots of email marketing tools, from MailerLite and MailChimp to Constant Contact, HubSpot and MadMimi. Today, I use ConvertKit, but you don’t need it to start.

What you DO need is to have an opt-in form front and center on your website, and a clear incentive for people to sign up. If you’re sharing great content, that could be incentive enough right there.  Just promise to email updates to those who join your list. Otherwise, you’ll need to create an incentive, such as a lead magnet.

Check out my blog post called, “How to Create an Email List for Your Farm” It’ll walk you through the important steps.

So, benefit #2 is you’ll get a head start on building that all important email list.

Let’s move on.

Benefit #3, is also of huge importance. Maybe even huger importance, as my five-year old daughter might say. 

And that is you’ll get a great head start on search engine optimization (SEO) by marketing early.  This is particularly true if you blog, since you’ll have the opportunity to “optimize” lots of different posts.

Of course, you can share your story in other formats than blogs, such as using a podcast, like this one. But if you take that route just be sure to create excellent SEO-rich show notes. Or better yet, a transcript of the episode.

That way you get SEO benefits and create an opportunity for fans to engage you. 

So, creating a running blog now (And, yes, blogs are still relevant) will mean that search engines will easily find you a year from now when you start your business.

So you gotta get all that going well in advance so that you’re present online when you need to be.

And, if you’re planning a farming-related business, be sure to incorporate geo-tags into your blog posts.

In other words, don’t do a post that says, “Farm Update.” Because that has no meaning, really.

Instead, write a post with an SEO-rich title, such as, “Update on our Topeka grass-fed beef farm,” if you’re starting such a farm for the Topeka market.

Make that the blog post title, make sure it’s in the URL and optimize the phrase “Topeka grass-fed beef” throughout the blog post.

Two years later when you’ve got meat to market, you’ll likely show up high in the search results when a consumer searches for “Topeka grass-fed beef.”

Okay, so here’s benefit #4. It’s the potential for media exposure.

Now, as a result of high search engine ranks, we received lots of media coverage on our farm.

And I mean, LOTS. Virtually all unsolicited by us. CNN, The New York Times, NPR, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, RFD TV, Southern Living Magazine and other outlets reached out to us, simply because they found us when researching story ideas.

CNN came out twice to video our farm because we were one of the first to offer a meat CSA, which they discovered via our blog. Some of the other media stories were profile pieces, such as featuring a couple who left corporate life for the farm.

Others featured specific farming enterprises, such as heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving—an NPR station visited to do a story on that.  Or about our rare-breed Ossabaw pigs—The Food Network visited our farm and we were in an episode that featured our pork and farmstead cheese.

Heck, Fox & Friends even had me on an episode to go up against a PETA person on a topic that related to dairy farming.

And all that happened because we were “out there.”

We were present and talking about stuff that was interesting to folks in the media.

I’m not promising the same thing will happen to you, but I will promise you this.

If you don’t put yourself out there, there’s NO chance of anyone finding you.

So the opportunity for media exposure is benefit #4.

Now, let’s move onto the last benefit on the list.

Benefit #5, is that you’ll have access to free and valuable market research.

Because marketing early through blogging and social media also allows you to get customer feedback in advance. Basically, you can get pre-product release intelligence into what potential customers want.

Maybe they’re not interested in another pastured poultry supplier of whole chickens, but would pay a premium for retail cuts.  Or perhaps they’re eager to find local mushrooms. Or maybe they value agritourism and farm events over food products, so you can use that feedback to plan farm events or farm stays.

By listening to your growing base of followers on social media and your blog, etc., you’ll learn what they want.

And you’ll connect their wants to your vision, so that when you go to market, they’ll feel like you created this awesome farm business just for them.

How cool is THAT?

So, incorporate this market intelligence into your product offering and blog posts so that you come out of the gate swinging.

Okay, so there are five pretty compelling benefits of starting your marketing NOW, regardless of what stage you’re at.

  • Benefit #1 is you’ll build a loyal tribe of fans
  • Benefit #2 is you’ll begin to build your email list
  • Benefit #3 is you’ll earn SEO juice and rank on search engines
  • Benefit #4 is potential media exposure
  • Benefit #5 is market research

Ok, so how do you start marketing to reap the benefits I described?

Here are ten steps I want you to take ASAP:

  1. Choose your farm or business name and get the URL. Now. Right now.
  2. Create a Facebook page (not a personal page) for your farm, even if you’re not ready to start using it. But DON’T let this be your main hub…that’s GOT to be your website. Create a page and drive traffic to your site.
  3. Set-up a web hosting account and create a WordPress website and blog. I use and recommend SiteGround, but use what you want. Now, your new website will default to “construction” mode and be offline. That’s what you want…you’re not ready to go live yet. You need to tweak your design and set-up some additional resources.
  4. In addition to your blog posts, set-up an “About” page on your website. It doesn’t…and shouldn’t—all be on a separate page. You can put much of your “about” info on your home page. Go to smallfarmnation.com and see how I do it on the home page, with a link to more tantalizing Timmy tidbits on the about page.  And remember to inject lots of “you” into the about page. I want to “feelyour personality and your passion. I don’t want to read the same thing I see on everyone else’s about page. Convince me that I should follow and keep up with you.
  5. Set-up an account with an email service provider before you launch your website. Like I said, I use ConvertKit but I suggest you go with MailChimp. 
  6. Once you’ve done that set-up a form so that you can capture email on your website as well as from your Facebook page. So add the form and make it front and center ABOVE the fold on your homepage, and in the top of the right sidebar on secondary pages.
  7. Okay, now that you have your email service provider set-up, you’ll want to lay the foundation to build your email list. Sure, it would be nice if visitors would simply and freely volunteer their email address to you, but, like you, they’ll want something in return. That “something” could simply be your compelling writing and the promise to update them periodically with new posts. More often, however, it requires a more tangible offer. That offer is called a lead magnet.
  8. Now that you have an ability to capture email in place, you’re ready to take your site live. So do that.
  9. Start blogging, and blog on a specific schedule. Daily is too much because you won’t do it. Monthly is too little. Personally, I prefer 1-2 times per week, but choose what you can commit to. If you only do weekly but do it well, you’ll have 52 SEO-rich posts after the first year. Not bad.
  10. Share your posts across social media. This can become a chore, but you can use tools such as CoSchedule, Buffer and others to automate this for you.

Okay, so do these 10 things as soon as you can.

By that point you’ll be off and running. You’ve got a story to tell and you’re starting to share it.

Now, let me get to the final benefit of you doing this.

And it’s the most important benefit of all.

Because, once you do this and start sharing, it makes your story REAL and actionable.  It sets you in motion to beginning to live your farm dream instead of living someone else’s dream (like your employer).

After you take that first, slow and heavy footstep, you’ll be amazed how your pace quickens.  Your readers will energize you as you inspire them.

After convincing you with the reasons you should start marketing your farm business as soon as possible, I outline the 10 specific action steps you should take right now. When you do, you’ll set your farm business up for long-term success.


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