April 16, 2014 | Arlette Sambs
print-button

Is This The ‘New Normal’?

While business continues to boom, always be prepared for change

Is This The 'New Normal'?

At a reception Feed & Grain co-sponsors at GEAPS Exchange 2014, I overheard one of our guests ask a hopeful question about the current state of the grain business. He was wondering if we are in a “new normal” stage of activity for our industry.

This year’s Exchange was one of the most vibrant I’ve ever attended. The association brought together about 400 suppliers and drew nearly 3,400 attend­ees. Great educational content, a good venue in a smart location — everything came together nicely. In fact, I’d suggest the success in part reflects the current, busy, positive state of our industry.

With plenty of windshield time as I cruised home, I started wondering if the past few years really do reflect a “new normal” state of business. My gut reaction is “I certainly hope so.” Demand is good; historically, prices appear to hold some strength. Companies and co-ops have been investing in expansion, remodeling and upgrades. Contractors are busy. Technology continues to help feed and grain businesses gain efficien­cies, improve safety and enhance qual­ity. It all reflects a positive outlook and positive outcomes.

Still, (and I am not trying to rain on anyone’s parade) I hesitate to apply “new normal” to many business situations. The term suggests a sense of constancy that, in my opinion, you would want to look at over a few years rather than months. But, just to continue with my thoughts, what if the industry has been on a five-year growth trajectory? And what if last year was your best ever and you’re on pace to set another record this year? Would you say this is the new normal? Every year gets better than the previous one?

I love that as a target. Crossing the Iowa countryside, though, I started wondering:

  • What changes might be coming next — to the industry and to our business?
  • Of the various changes — from grain demand to communications technol­ogy — how do I as a business manager accurately predict changes and recog­nize their impacts?
  • More importantly, how do I prepare for these potential changes? What are my options?
  • Most importantly, how do I get every­one I work with thinking along these same lines?

In our work lives, few things are more energizing than having a small group of smart people brainstorming about improving our business. If nothing else, I decided, I need to make these a “normal” part of our business routine.

More Articles

Hola Havana

Hola Havana

May 17, 2015 | Editors Note | Elise Schafer

We’ve all seen the headlines across social media about the potential for Cuban Cigars to be legalized. That’s because in December 2014, President Obama said the U.S. would soon re-establish relations with Cuba nearly 55 years after the trade embargo was enacted

[Read More]
Brush Up on Rail Safety

Brush Up on Rail Safety

May 12, 2015 | From The Field |

Industrial facilities that use rail as a part of their operation move railcars by a variety of motive power types. No matter what type of motive power is used, applicable rail operating safety rules and procedures should be followed. Applying up-to-date rules and procedures to rail operations will enhance employee safety and facility efficiencies. 

[Read More]
Facility on the Go

Facility on the Go

May 07, 2015 | Focus On | Steven Kilger

Having automated technology running operations in facilities has been an industry standard in the feed industry for years, and the grain industry is rapidly catching up. The advantages of the technology are numerous and evolving. Automation improves equipment life expectancy, employee safety and productivity, facility efficiency and ultimately profitability.  

[Read More]
Feed & Grain Announces Photo Contest Winners

Feed & Grain Announces Photo Contest Winners

April 30, 2015 | | Elise Schafer

Feed & Grain is proud to announce the winners of its 2014 Harvest Photo Contest. Entries poured in from December 2014 until this February showcasing our readers’ ability to manage a record crop — some with limited access to rail or other shipping options. Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions! 

[Read More]
U.S. Invests in Key Rail and River Infrastructure
Photo by Union Pacific Railroad

U.S. Invests in Key Rail and River Infrastructure

April 27, 2015 | Cover Story | Elise Schafer

The year 2014 ended as a mixed bag on the transportation front. Historically poor railroad performance in the Northern Plains and record-high costs for railcars were detrimental to many grain shippers. But on the bright side, Congress’ passage of the Waterways Resources Reform and Development Act recognized the importance of maintaining vital waterways like the Mississippi River.

[Read More]