Editor's note: The following article was originally featured in the July-August issue of Bovine Veterinarian, available here.
It’s natural for a son or daughter to want to grow a farm in a different direction from how his or her parents or grandparents would. It really doesn’t matter what the son or daughter grows or how the production parameters are different. The question that matters is, are the same principles which made the previous generation successful being applied? Or are they being forgotten, resulting in an 80 percent probability of failure?
I once had a father/son situation whereby it would be impossible to be a better hog operator than the father. He had immigrated to Canada with nothing and had built a sizeable multi-site hog operation.
One of the ways he had achieved this success was by always working out his mistakes with a pencil first. The father had never made any investment which didn’t return at least 7 percent ROI on paper. Granted there were a few times investments didn’t pan out as expected, but overall he had been extremely successful.
His son was an extremely hard worker, and I simply could not speak enough praise for his character. He shared many of the traits of his father. Yet, he wanted to be the opposite of his father. He complained that he was tired of being inside a concrete barn all day. He wanted to spend more time outdoors and farm holistically. He had a vision of raising clean, green Dexter organic beef cows.
Now there was absolutely nothing wrong with his son’s vision, and niche marketing is definitely a trend. However, his son wanted to instantly jump into things and do it in a big way without thinking. He was passionate about his vision and it was very emotional for him. He wanted to “just do it” and didn’t care about the details. He wanted instant results.
This is because the son was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had never starved!
For several months, I worked with the son to formulate a business plan, and we looked at it from multiple perspectives. It simply didn’t cash flow and didn’t make sense whatsoever. Yet the son wanted to do it that spring anyway. He didn’t care about what worked on paper; his gut told him it would work out. He spoke to me of risk as if he was reading a motivational poster in an accountant’s office, not as a man who had experienced it. The son never knew what it was like to fail and starve. Thus he had romantic visions of taking risk!