Four years ago Ag Progress launched its educational arm, the Progress Coach. Our major goals were to get farmand ranch owners/managers together who faced similiar obstacles, challenge them with new concepts and build a sense of community and common interest. Justin Topp of T-T Ranch in Grace City, ND was in our original cohort in 2015 and remains actively involved in our thrice-annual meetings, each of which lasts 24 hours with educational content addressing one of the three circles of family business: ownership, management, and relationships.
When I asked Justin about the benefits he ses from the program, he mentioned the opportunity "to share frustrations, challenges, ideas and information about our family businesses....it acts as a support group of people in relatively the same place in business and in life, trying to manage around the great and not-so-great things of a family business."
One of the key concepts in the program is the importance of taking "the first next step." We have noticed that when working on business improvements, succession planning or any number of initiatives, the amount of change required can feel overwhelming. But by focusing on taking the next step - be it a conversation, a small commitment, an experiment, or a hiring - whatever it is, that step creates momentum that takes the business in a new direction. Justin says that "The first next step....is something that I don't say all the time or isn't daily running through my head, but I can assure you that I am using it a lot."
Meeting with peers from across the country, to learn from and with them, has become increasingly important as farms and ranches look for creative ways to solve problems. Justin concluded his comments by noting that "having a group of people to continually get together with and share in the successess and defeats has been a great asset. It has challenged me to be a better leader with a vision for the future and not just tomorrow."