Nobody wants to talk about it… but as coronavirus makes its way into rural America we have to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Do you have a plan on the farm if one or more of your key employees goes down? With many small to medium-sized farm operations counting on one or two key people it’s something we certainly have to think about.
I can still hear my Pops and Gram calling us a couple of times per week… “Just wanted to call and check on you and Michelle, how are things going, you kids need anything, are any of your plans changing…” My grandparents told me on countless occasions they made it through the tough times by having plans, talking about their plans, and frequently adjusting their sails.
Just the two of them mostly did it all… Pops always had a plan and Gram was always carrying out and checking on the details. At the end of the day we would all sit down at the dinner table and discuss the good and bad. The next morning we would do it all over again or readjust as situations dictated. Bottom-line, it seemed we always had a plan for whatever situation we might encounter. It was important that we worked as a team and collectively knew where we were headed.
We obviously can’t plan for all possible scenarios but we can certainly challenge our thoughts regarding the big-ticket items. A good contingency plan determines how quickly you can respond to a crisis or disaster and ultimately predicts how quickly you will rebound and resume normal operations. Below are a few things to consider:
Identify the risks that are specific to your operation. Write them down and rank in order of what could be the most costly so everyone knows and fully understands. i.e. What if the local ethanol plant shuts down? What if the person who handles all of the marketing goes down? What if the person who handles the banking goes down? What if your local equipment dealership has to close who will work on your equipment? What if you deliver to a local dairy or hog operation and they close? Try and put down as many as you can and think about a plan….
Determine which operations are essential. Again, write them down and rank in order of importance so everyone knows and fully understands. i.e. How will be in the planter if the main guy goes down, what if both people get sick? Can you start a small group with neighbors to help in case of wide-spread hiccup? Again challenge yourself and think of ways you can still get the important things done. Which functions are absolutely necessary to keep your business up and running? This might include your phone lines, internet, or other technology services as well. Think outside the box!
Establish alternate employee roles and responsibilities. Know which employees can do what in the event of an emergency and who can shift roles and positions most easily. Decide who will be responsible for decision making should the General go down!