All too often businesses, especially production agriculture, are run looking only in the rearview mirror. A lot of focus is put on what happened last year, things that could be changed and events out of our control. Imagine a pickup truck rumbling down a gravel road with a giant sheet of cardboard covering the windshield. Unless the driver has driven this road numerous times and has a good idea of its twists and turns, this trip will most likely be short-lived. Yet it seems that most ag operations are handled in this manner, making decisions for the current year, only considering what happened last year or years past. This approach makes it incredibly difficult to see and plan for any obstacles that may appear.

There are already plenty of hurdles farmers and ranchers have to overcome each year with changing interest rates and commodity markets, shifting consumer activity, Mother Nature’s mood swing and the list goes on. Work and stress are compounded when the operator is consistently looking over their shoulder instead of focusing ahead.

Consider again the pickup truck, only now the windshield is uncovered offering a full view of the road ahead. Already this trip has much more potential. The driver, the passengers and even the cow dog in the back are a little less tense. The quick darting deer and the rugged potholes are much easier seen and avoided. Although some careful thought and time are necessary to create a solid plan for the upcoming year or season, having a good idea of where you are headed, the goals you want to achieve and the steps required to get there are pivotal.

This rear view should not be ignored completely, as with anything else we can learn and grow from past decisions. Checking your rearview mirror requires only a quick shift in focus to recall what is behind you and what adjustments to make going forward.   All of the data, painstakingly gathered and recorded can now be put to use. A swift glance back will tell you last year’s June rainfall totals, the tonnage of hay taken off the north pasture, weaning weights or corn yields. This information is great for benchmarking and decision making, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration you make. A strong foundation for a successful year is set when data is combined with market and weather projections, new studies from government and university research, and maybe a bit of gut instinct.

So, take a moment to determine which direction you are looking. Are you operating your business staring back at a bumpy road through the rearview mirror or are you seeing all that lies ahead through a clean windshield? Trust me, after a long day’s work sunsets look much better through that windshield.

Written by Abby Majerus from Majerus Ranch

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