Extension Education: Professional Improvement for Ranchers
If your ranch is a business and the people that work in that business are professional business people, then each person should have a professional improvement plan. In ranch businesses, we often get too caught up in doing the day-to-day work, and we sometimes overlook or fail to do the tasks that have the most value creating potential.
I recently had a call from a rancher who was looking for information on a management course. They expressed concern about the $50 tuition for the two-day class. They didn’t outright say this, but implied that they were comfortable the class would be worth giving up the two days away and worth the travel expenses, but just uncomfortable with the $50. I shook my head after hanging up that this person might have lost sight of the big picture. I’d argue that the two days away and the travel expenses was a much greater investment than the small tuition.
What do you think most businesses budget per professional for professional improvement annually? I found some literature that suggests $2,000 per year for each professional employee is a ball park average. My guess is that most ranches are well below this.
To be successful in the ranching business generally requires the manger to be frugal. Here is one area where I think being overly frugal can be dangerous. It is certainly wise to critically evaluate educational opportunities and the cost of each, but not whether or not people should be attending something. In fact, I would suggest astute managers would insist each professional employee must attend some meaningful professional development program each year or two, and no, I don’t think the half-day meeting in town fits the bill.
I would encourage the ranch team to examine the strengths and weaknesses of all persons involved in the ranch and identify areas needing improvement then finding appropriate trainings that will meet the need. For example, a ranch may have people who are very skilled at handling nutrition and reproduction management issues, and other people who are skilled at developing grazing plans and systems, but no one who is skilled at conducting economic and financial analysis on the ranch. Unless the ranch wants to hire this to be done outside, it would be wise to identify someone on the ranch team willing to get this training and be willing to invest a significant amount in making this happen.
I have been fortunate to work with many ranchers across several states and in my opinion the well-functioning, profitable ranches tend to be those who actively seek knowledge. Attending meetings and seminars is only part of it. Forming a network with other progressive ranch managers is likely just as or perhaps more valuable than the information delivered at the meeting.
I encourage your ranch management team to discuss professional development regularly and, just like you budget for the fuel used on the ranch, budget for professional development for your most valuable asset on the ranch – the people.