Grades are a method of rating performance — most commonly used in our schools, colleges and universities. As university professors, we both find them helpful in ranking the accomplishments of our students. In this month’s column, we propose a report card for your grain and feed business. We suggest a number of areas where as a manager, you can grade your business and we also discuss why these areas are important to your business. We also provide some resources to help you improve your grades. Because successfully managing your business requires many different skills and expertise in numerous areas, we highlight our first group of proficiencies in this column and will follow up next issue to complete our report card.
The grade card
Please utilize the grade card provided in Figure 1 to grade your business in the areas listed. Once you have rated yourself on the measures provided, rank the areas according to their importance to you as a manager. Following this, identify areas that need improvement (your call — but we would say if you have a “C” or below in an area, and the area is ranked as “Important,” to “Highly Important,” this would qualify for attention). Now, read through the following sections for the insight, ideas, tools and resources to help raise your grade point average.
Starting with this area might be a bit dangerous for us as authors — we are talking about your self-evaluation of the job you do as a manager. However, we hope that you know your weak points and evaluate yourself honestly!
As educators, we challenge our students to strive to be lifelong learners and we feel that this applies to feed and grain managers too. Items 1 and 2 focus on how well informed you are as a manager. We know that in today’s world of information overload, it is difficult to keep up however, you can selectively pick key sources that you know provide reliable and timely information. Setting aside some time to read this and other publications and your trade association monthly newsletter, will help to keep you abreast of current trends and issues.
Another method of keeping current involves reading books. New ideas on management, leadership and motivation can get the creative “juices” flowing and pay off with new approaches to day-to-day management challenges. You may ask, “How do I find these books?” One way is to set aside an hour, twice a week to visit your local library to read books on these subjects. If that’s not an option, Amazon.com and other online booksellers have made the practice of book buying extremely easy. All you have to do is point and click and the books of your choice are purchased and sent directly to your home or office. Keyword searches and other online tools make the process particularly helpful, and for many books Amazon.com lets you read through a book’s excerpts to see if the book meets your needs.
Another technique you might consider is listening to books on CD or on an IPOD while traveling. Drive or travel time can be a great occasion to “read” a book and audio books address the argument that you don’t have time to read.
A further means to achieve items 1 through 3 under the “Management” category is to attend seminars. These may be offered by your state feed and grain trade association or by consultants — such as Fred Pryor Seminars (www.pryor.com) Skillpath (www.skillpath.com ) or Learning Tree (www.learningtree.com ).While these latter opportunities may not be as focused as seminars offered by your industry, you can often find some unique ideas at these programs. Many managers find seminars to be useful as much for the networking and idea sharing that occurs, as for the actual sessions presented.
A more recent approach to seminars are online offerings, such as those provided by a Canadian company, Economic Research Institute (ERI), which provides free online compensation and benefits education It does charge a fee only if the user needs academic credit. Its website is: www.eridlc.com, and we cite one of the courses below.