Thursday, March 10, 2011


Have you ever wondered what's going on in a farmer's head as you drive by on the highway and watch a tractor at work in a big field in the springtime ? I can tell you from experience that he might be thinking about lots of mundane things....anything from reviewing various sorts of performances from the previous night (hopefully he was SMILING about this) to what he was going to eat for dinner when he got home. But in addition to the mundane, it's possible he might be thinking about deeper things. Come with me as I share with you what I was thinking as I worked my way across a big field on a warm, sunshine-y spring day last week......

As part of the process of renewing our small business revolving line of credit at the bank, I recently got asked to provide our banker with an updated balance sheet as a measure of our net worth. As I'm sure you all know, a balance sheet is basically a simple tally; add up all your assets, add up all your debts and subtract the debts from the assets and worth !

While I was riding around spreading and incorporating fertilizer and seed, my mind got stuck for awhile on statements of net worth. While debt numbers are more or less irrefutable, asset numbers are not. Assets are worth whatever somebody will pay for them and that is almost always heavily influenced by the amount of time you have to dispose of your assets. Anyone who's had to sell something quickly knows exactly what I'm talking about. Because of this, valuing assets can be a pretty tricky business. I spent a little time thinking through various examples of this, just to prove myself right. It's hard to change when you can't measure your current performance, so generally speaking, I like financial benchmarking....let's me see everything I need to know about my business...good and bad.... all in one place.

[Finally, half done ! Right about here I stopped to empty my bladder, check the oil, fill the drill and top up the diesel tank. As I remounted the tractor, I took a quick look at the position of the sun relative to the amount of field I had left to cover. Just enough time ! I quickly got rolling again.]

Right about here is where the thinking got a whole bunch deeper and I stopped paying very much attention to what I was doing on the tractor. I wondered why (other than for my business) I don't seem to spend any time doing some benchmarking in my life. I wondered what my world would look like and how my own life might differ if I took just a little time on a regular basis to create a non-financial balance sheet...actually maybe several of them....that would help me measure and quantify various facets of my life. Let's face it, we ALL have areas where we ought to aspire to do better than we're currently doing and I am the king of the self congratulatory pat on the back. But as good as it is....and my life IS good, it sure isn't all roses. I thought about this for a good long while.....twenty acres worth of harrowing at least....before I identified what some of my most pressing challenges were as well as how I might begin to work at improving them.

When I next looked up I couldn't believe (a) the sun had all but set and (b) how COLD it got when this event happened ! I also couldn't believe that I was about done with the field. It takes me a few minutes to re-engage my brain and make a positive transition from long, solitary hours spent on a tractor back to dealing with the needs of real live people, phones and animals. I've always used the time between finishing a field and returning to the barn to get this done and today was no different. As I was taught to do many years ago, I methodically cleaned, greased and oiled each piece of equipment as I unhitched it. When I was through, I parked the tractor and fully switched tasks....from world philosopher to Williamson County farm hand in about two minutes. I called Melissa to find out where she was at regarding afternoon chores, did up my dungarees and went out to lend a hand !


RuckusButt said...

Way to leave us hanging! Hope the next post lets us in on some of your revelations.

Jason said...

But then you'll all realize I'm not perfect and I won't have any friends left ! ;)

Funder said...

I thought this was an awesome post, Jason. But most importantly: you got cold?!? But you're from The Frozen North, you're not allowed to get cold!

Jason said...

Short sleeve shirt works good at 75 degrees. Short sleeve shirt sucks rocks at 45 degrees !