“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka
On Dec 5th, 1980 I was born into this world on a farm via a mid-wife who was paid half a pig to nurse my mom through labor. Today I run two successful businesses, Swift Kick and Student Launcher, in the heart of New York City. For many years, I used to run away from my farm life upbringing because I thought it had no place in business or The Big Apple, but as of late, I’ve actually come to embrace my farm boy ways as a competitive advantage. Here are the five Entrepreneurial lessons I learned growing up on a farm…
1) A “Sun Up to Sun Down” Work Ethic
Like clock work, every morning our family would wake with the sun to the sound of our rooster crowing. The work day began immediately with a collection of eggs from the chicken coop for breakfast. Then after a full day of back breaking work tending to the farm, we moved inside to prepare ourselves to do it all over again the next day. To a cow needing to be milked, there are no weekends, holidays, or personal vacation days. A consistent level of hard work and dedication are naturally built into the DNA of a farmer.
In my business, some weeks take a Herculean level of work to stay afloat and thankfully, I’ve already got it built into my DNA.
2) The Best Crops Take Time To Grow
Typically, Corn seeds are planted in Spring with a full harvest not happening until Fall. In a world of instant gratification, patience is a virtue and a farmer knows that the best product takes time to cultivate.
Since we work in the education space, often times it takes months to close a deal and most try to rush something that isn’t meant to be rushed. Patience in sales can lead to a wonderful yield.
3) The Family Farm
If you think taking care of your front yard is difficult, imagine multiplying that by 1000 and then throw a bunch of living, breathing animals into the mix. That’s what it’s like to manage a farm. It’s impossible to do it alone. Everyone relies on everyone else to make sure the whole farm is successful. Running a family farm is the ultimate team in which the labor is shared and the rewards are shared.
A core value in our business is “Raise The Tide” which means that we are all in this together and when we align our individual work to the greater good, we all win.
4) Money Isn’t The Only Currency
Every year we brought one of our cows to the local butcher to process the meat for us because without the right equipment and skill, slaughtering a cow is almost impossible. Instead of charging us per pound, which is typical, we knew we couldn’t store, nor eat, an entire cow in a year, so we’d give the butcher a third of the meat in exchange for his services. In small farm towns, bartering is as common as exchanging money.
The bartering market in the U.S. is reportedly around $12 billion annually, so in my business, I’m always looking at creative ways I can do business with someone that doesn’t involve exchanging money and is a win-win for both sides. Recently, I was asked to keynote a student leadership conference but they didn’t have a budget, so in exchange we worked out a marketing package of both digital and print media that equaled my normal speaking fee. In the end, they received a great keynote and I received great brand awareness.
5) Strategic Planning With The Farmers’ Almanac
Since 1818, the Farmers’ Almanac has provided farmers with weather predictions 16 months into the future. The reason the Almanac has remind so popular for so long is because for proper harvesting, farmers need to be constantly looking into the future and calculating current resources against future needs.
In my business, doing quarterly strategy retreats with my team is a natural way of life to ensure we are setting ourselves up for future success. The only difference is in my current business I replace a weather report with a sales pipeline.
By running towards my childhood instead of running from it, I’ve discovered so many wonderful life skills that pay dividends multiple times over as an entrepreneur.
Now it’s your turn. What lessons from your childhood upbringing help you to be a successful person today?