8 ways to stay busy after harvest

"Get busy trying to stay busy"

By Greg Ver Steeg   |   Fall 2015

Harvest season is underway in northwest Iowa and by all reports the growing season has been good…really good as a matter of fact. The result is, crop prices are predicted to remain low.

Meanwhile ag equipment purchasing trends have dropped to concerning lows and it looks like the ag industry is facing a winter of what I like to call “getting busy trying to stay busy”.

“To succeed it is necessary to accept the world as it is and rise above it.” — Michael Korda

Well this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced a slump in the ag industry and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it isn’t going to be the last. With each challenge that we overcome, we fortify our businesses, ultimately building a tolerance which helps us weather future ups and downs.

I’d like to encourage you to see these cycles as opportunities to position your business for future growth. It is with that in mind that I offer you eight ways to get busy this winter.

1. Reach out to past customers!

Update your customer lists. Your customer list is an asset, just like your buildings or your equipment. It should be maintained. Your best customers are your repeat customers. They are the foundation upon which you build your growth. Proactively reach out to inactive and current clients before your competitors knock on their door and you may avoid a bidding war over the next project opportunity that comes available.

2. Eliminate waste

Waste creeps up on every business throughout the course of a year. Take advantage of slower times in your business cycle to figure out ways to run a leaner operation. The savings you find go right to your bottom line.

3. Spend time cross-training your staff

When do you have time to train your staff in other areas when you are busy? Think of the future possibilities of a cross-trained staff! During slow periods, versatility is key, especially when it comes to your staff. Versatile staff is valuable staff and when things pick up again, your “bench strength” puts you in a better position to handle it.

4. Review product offerings of suppliers

Many companies offer a variety of products and services, but often have customers that only take advantage of a limited few. Chances are there are other products, or maybe a market niche, that your supplier would love to help you get started in. Partner with your suppliers to take advantage of these new opportunities.

5. Leverage special pricing programs

When it is slow for your business, chances are, your suppliers are experiencing a slow down as well. That means they’ll likely be offering special programs to incentivize ordering during those down times. Take time to review these programs and understand them. There is opportunity and likely money to be made.

6. Do a SWOT analysis

Time spent analyzing your marketing strategy is time well spent. Considering your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a fantastic way for you to zero in on what makes you different. Where is the value only you can bring to your customers? Take the opportunity to ask yourself whether you can improve your marketing and consider if there are any areas that are letting you down.

7. Advertising and marketing campaign time

Your first reaction in a sluggish market might be to pull back on your advertising and marketing. Well, you’ve figured out how to get a sweet deal from your suppliers… now capitalize on your new found edge and promote your value proposition. Get creative. Take a few risks. Advertising and marketing doesn’t have to be expensive in this digital age we live in.

8. Set some goals and put them in action

Involve your staff. There is plenty of data out there about the benefits of setting goals, but it basically comes down to the fact that every business and every person in that business needs a sense of purpose and needs to feel like they are taking control of the future. This is especially true when things are a bit more challenging than normal.

Once harvest season wraps up, make sure you set aside some time to look at what you can do to make improvements for this upcoming year. Hopefully these 8 ideas will get you started.