An Executive Mindset, Regardless of Size
By: Dr. David M. Kohl
I was discussing the content of an upcoming educational event with an agriculture consultant. It caught my attention when he stated that his most successful producers were not necessarily the biggest, but the ones who had embraced the art of the executive mindset. It is often viewed that one has to operate a multimillion-dollar or billion-dollar business to have an executive mindset. However, an executive mindset can occur at any level of business revenue. Let's explore some of the characteristics of the executive mindset.
The executive mindset is characterized by one who observes the big picture and thinks globally but brings it down by being laser-focused on their business. They see opportunities and position the business to take advantage of trends. For example, a young producer adopted technology and is utilizing farm profitability models on a field level. Another producer is using genomic testing of a beef herd to provide specific attributes through genetics to the consumer desiring fat, marbling and other attributes. This technology allows this producer to stay ahead of consumer trends and back up decisions with real data.
Producers with an executive mindset have a financial management system that allows them to know where the business is at any point in time. These managers will generally have three to five areas they will use to benchmark themselves against business trends and peers. Transparency and clarity are very critical for a startup business or one that is in a growth mode or in transition. A financial record system is critical when executing a process.
One with an executive mindset knows how to surround themselves with talent. This could be employees, a management team or advisors. They often demonstrate good communication skills and are open to coaching and critique which makes them better. For example, a young and growing producer knew his limitations in marketing. Therefore, he worked with a marketing advisory service and used his production and financial systems to map out a successful marketing and risk management program. The executive mindset producer will often have a balance between success and significance. Success can be measured in dollars and cents, while significance is what you give back to others in life.
Individuals with an executive mindset will often outline the vision, mission, core values and specific goals with input from the team or others. Major decisions will be made in the context of whether they meet the core values and the guiding principles of the business.
While this is not a comprehensive list, one final characteristic is that these individuals find time for renewal and regeneration. This could be an educational event, business tour, vacation, or attending children's sports games. They know how to prioritize their priorities in the business of life.
Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 10 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 7,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published five books and over 2,500 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension and other popular publications.