NOFA-VT does a great job organizing a calendar of workshops and tours. This workshop was another home run for them! Managing people is always one of the hardest parts of business, and I’m always interested to hear another farmers take on this difficult subject.
Chris Blanchard is a former farmer of 25 years, and is now an educator, consultant, and speaker. You can learn more about him and what he does at his website, PurplePitchfork.com . I highly recommend checking out his Podcast as well.
Chris started off the morning by having us all introduce ourselves and say whether we were a good boss or bad boss. It was interesting to see what people thought they were and why. Then Chris opened by telling us that his farm used to be known as the “Yelling farm” and no one wanted to work there. This is what made him really focus on learning to manage people.
Here are the takeaways that I got out of the conference:
- Screen your potential employees by creating hurdles for them in the application process, i.e., employment application, references, showing up for interview on time, etc. At KFF, our farm, we had an online application, interview, and then checkout day that the applicant had to survive, before getting hired.
- Tell the rules- UPFRONT. Have an employee handbook, do a walk-around the farm and show them where things are and the procedures that help the place run.
- Blurry edges make crappy work. Define the job so there is a clear expectation for how and why things are done. Use SOP’s, directives, checklists, etc… Common sense isn’t as common as we would like to think.
- Establish authority by following up. To often we tell someone how to do something and then 15 minutes later they are doing it their way. You need to follow up 15 minutes later and retrain (if they don’t understand) or reprimand (I’m just going to to do it my way).
- Fire well- don’t drag it on by just giving them the rough, miserable jobs so they want to quit. You owe it to them to let them move on into a job that is better for them.
- Order Propagates- keeping things organized encourages the workers, speeds everybody up, and helps you find thing later.
- You don’t know what you don’t know until employees show up.
Overall, I really enjoyed the workshop. Chris is a fabulous speaker and entertaining. I came away realizing I had a lot of work to do to be a “good boss” but Chris gave me many tips to help me on the journey.