Nov. 11 2020 08:00 AM

A farm owner not only steers the business but also has to maintain it, focusing on the “why” instead of the “how.”

Managing the why and not the people is the key differentiator between many businesses. Oftentimes, people have the opposite in place because it seems easier at first. As a manager of a business, your title sounds like you are there to manage or control the people that are under your rank. However, if you flip this concept on its head, everything becomes more efficient while also improving employee retention and workplace morale.

I get a lot of funny looks from those who do not understand this concept. As a manager or owner, there are those who believe that a person in a higher position should take the lead role in everything. There are those who believe because you hold the position of manager or owner, you have outgrown certain jobs or tasks, but that is far from the truth.

Metaphorically, I see our farm as a race car. Our car is fast and streamlined, but everything has to be perfect or we lose efficiencies, and therefore, time and money. At the steering wheel directing the car is the manager or owner, but the one that drives is also responsible for its maintenance. You don’t get in your car without fueling it up. You don’t drive a race without first checking you tires, your windshield, the joints, the oil, and so forth. If you plan on steering the car, you must maintain it, too, because everything that makes the car move is just as important as the one giving it direction.

It is heartbreaking to watch someone run out of gas mid-race or blow a tire because they failed to maintain their vehicle. With that being said, it is as equally troubling to converse with someone who doesn’t understand why it is important to maintain your “vehicle” in the first place.

As an owner of a dairy, you will not find me doing all the “best” jobs, leaving the menial jobs for others. Instead, you would see the opposite. I find that more is accomplished when I play the supporting role, all the while directing toward the ultimate goal. I always joke that I work for my employees because they tell me what they need to complete their jobs, and I help them get there. If I can help those who help me, we all benefit from the relationship.

How do you get here? Well, it’s more about the “why” and not the “how.” It is great to teach someone how to complete a task or a job, but it is equally, if not more, important to teach them why we do it. The difference between good and great is always the why.

If someone truly understands why a treatment works or why cow comfort is important or why cleanliness is paramount, everything will become easier. Anyone can wash a water trough, but when someone who cares and understands why it is so important for that trough to be clean, it will be the difference between it getting washed or walked by.

Take a look and see if your race car has any warning lights on the dash. It may be time to do some maintenance mid-race.

Tyler Ribeiro

Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.