Small Business Lessons I Learned From a Week on the Farm
I’m a city girl born and bred, although I spent my teenage years in Canada in smaller cities where we lived near the outskirts close to farmland. I fell in love with the wheat fields of Prairie Canada; the big sky; the fields that go on for miles and the sheer size of it all. I’ve lived in Sydney ever since and hanker for the days when I get to go to the country.
So you can imagine my delight to have a client that owns a large agricultural business and every so often I am invited to visit the farm and wave my magic accounting wand over the figures and create their management reports.
Lesson #1: It doesn’t cost anything to help
I was given one of the farm utes to drive into town one afternoon recently. About 2km from town, the ute seemed to lose power and slowed down. I managed to pull off on the side of the road just before it completely conked out. No problem, I thought, I’ll just pull out my mobile phone and ring the office to tell them I’ve broken down. But after a quick search of my handbag I realised that I had left my phone at the office…
So what does a damsel in distress do on a country road? The only thing you can – flag down the next vehicle that comes along. The driver turns out to be a crusty old farmer. He agreed to let me use his phone, and I alert the office of the need for me and the ute to be rescued.
While waiting for my knight in shining armour another of my client’s utes drove past, saw that one of their farm vehicles was pulled off the side of the road with an unidentified woman standing near it. So they circled back to check up on me and no doubt to check me out to make sure I was legit and that I hadn’t managed to steal the ute… although quite why anyone would want to steal that beat up old ute I’m not sure.
I have no doubt that if the same circumstance had happened in the city, I’d probably still be there. At the very least, I’m 100% certain that no one would have stopped to make sure I was ok or offered to help or stay with me until help arrived.
Lesson #2: Treat your customers well no matter what.
When the ute broke down, I was on my way into town to the motel I’d been staying in to collect my bags and check out early as I’d been invited to stay at the homestead for the next couple of nights. The client was paying for the room even though I wasn’t going to use it.
The motel owner was quite stroppy with me, telling me that he could have rented out the room five times over if he’d known earlier that I was not going to use the room even though it was being paid for. I made some optimistic comment that he’d probably still be able to rent it out again (it was around 5 pm), but he was convinced that I’d done him wrong and wasn’t going to be appeased.
Lesson #3: It’s all about the job and the attitude of the workers
My knight in shining armour (aka the mechanic) was due to finish work by the time he had taken me and my bags back to the farm office, and yet he still had to arrange to get back to the ute with some diesel (it had run out of fuel…) and drive it back to the farm before he could finish for the day. And he did it all in a bright, cheerful manner; nothing was a bother or any trouble.
Sure, farmers are business people too. Farming communities are just that, they are communities. Communities where they understand the need to help each other out, to provide assistance to those in need without expectation of anything in return.
Does your business have a community? Would you personally help someone in need? In big cities, we’ve become numbed to what goes on around us, scared that in helping someone we put ourselves at risk in some way, and yet it is in connecting with people that we receive our greatest rewards.
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