The Smart Farmer

Last year my friend bought and launched a new business.

He’s an optimist: so he bought into the ambitious “business potential estimates” with-out doing any home-work.

While he wants to make his short term sales numbers, he forgets that the products and services he’s selling have VERY long purchase cycles.

Each month he has a “sale”: Grand Opening Sale, Spring Sale, Summer Sale, Fall Sale, etc. to teach his prospects and customers that they should shop for the best price; not the best quality or relationship.

The discounts he offers leave him with paper thin margins that are too low to sustain his business with.

He’s open to trying any media that knocks on his door, but is not willing to put some pre and post sales event performance measures in place to help him determine which ads and media are working for him and which are not in the short and long term.

Because these tactics have not been thought through and are not working, my friend is starting to panic. I can’t blame him. I would too if all I did, did not appear to work.

This morning I was walking Charlie through an old apple orchard in my neighborhood and I was reminded of a more sustainable business cycle that goes something like this.

  • The smart farmer does homework to see what’s thriving in the area and what’s just barely hanging on in order to determine what the land’s yield potential is & profits might be.
  • Current supply and demand for the produce or livestock options are taken into account – as are changes in how his community lives.
  • The smart farmer doubles the estimated expenses and reduces the estimated profits by ½ to determine if an option is viable.
  • Given the cyclical nature of crop and livestock growth – as well as the barriers to a successful harvest, sorting out a steady short term cash flow is critical to the smart farmer.

The smart farmer develops a sustainable business model that enables the operation to weather the tough times and grow the business over the long term.

  • The smart farmer is no different than the smart retailer – she does her homework 1st.


Some context regarding the old apple orchard:

My guess is that this orchard was planted around 1918 when the land was part of the Scarboro Mission (which was founded to send Catholic Missionaries to China). For the last 30 years this orchard and some adjoining lands have been part of the Metropolitan Toronto Parks Network but continue to bear fruit which is enjoyed by the local residents and wildlife.


Say No To Black Friday

say no to black friday

Across North America everybody wants more for less – plus a lifetime guarantee. To satisfy this insane and insatiable desire for more cheap food, goods and services, we’ve sent millions of jobs to Asia and India. We’ve also done a wonderful job of teaching our kids that many jobs are not worth doing or having. This mentality has shut down industries and laid waste to cities, towns and individuals all across America and Canada. Where will this end?

When companies do not earn decent profit margins their foundations crumble.

  • They no longer can afford to do research and development.
  • Without leading edge research and development their managers blindly follow the “best practices” of their competitors, and fail.
  • They cut back on staff training and development.
  • They cut back on benefits.
  • Full time staff is rehired as part-time staff with no benefits.
  • Part time staff juggles two, sometimes three, jobs to make ends meet.
  • Because they are just making ends meet, time and money to support the arts and those who are less fortunate are also affected.
  • It impacts time at home with family + friends.
  • And on and on it goes.

Last week a friend of mine had his website built in the Philippines to save money. The money he paid has left Canada and will not be used to buy any of his products and services on Black Friday - or on any other day of the year.

Why not charge a fair price and invest the profits in our people, our communities, industries and Canada?



in flanders fields


Halloween + Branding


Halloween is a unique opportunity to experiment with branding since it appeals to so many different demographics and psychographics. Just Google™ “Halloween Pictures” or “Halloween Events” and I bet you’ll find a wider variety of Halloween ideas and associations than you and your in-house team would have conceived of. There are many obvious ways to capitalize on Halloween: dressing your staff, your places of business as well as your products and services. I trust you and your team can figure that out.

While direct participation may make sense for your brand and give you a fun & profit spike for a few days each year, there is another path that can pay long term dividends.

White box products and services.

For more reasons than you care to read in a blog post, your products and services have appeal limitations because of what your brand has come to represent to prospects in its primary marketplace.

Selling your products or services to other distributors under terms you define and enforce can help you understand what happens:

  • When you go local, domestic, ethnic or global.
  • When you sell into a premium, typical or discount market.
  • When you appeal to one two or more genders.
  • When you appeal to different age groups.

I think you get the picture.

Halloween lets you reimage yourself and your brand for fun and profit a few days a year.

White Box strategies let you do it all year long.


Common Ground

When I worked with Midas Canada in the late 90’s, Al Martin in Newmarket was the top franchisee in Canada. His business thrived because he was great at asking for the business, asking customers how he could improve their service experience and making sure that all team members shared his vision, passion and commitment to customers care. 

Another franchisee that did very well was Dave Tichowsky in Lloydminster. He was a tough guy to work for and had neither the time nor the inclination to deal with anyone associated with head office. (Un) fortunately that was my job: address local dealer and co-op advertising needs, and assure all franchise that the national advertising program will make more dollars for them and more sense to customers. At regional meetings Dave tended to be loud, gruff and uncooperative. So when it came time to call Dave and tell him I needed to come for a visit Dave told me “stay where you are and don’t waste my f - - - time!” Not one to pass up an opportunity to see the country, I went anyway, telling Dave’s assistant what day I would fly in and at what hour I expected to arrive. Because of a local ice storm I arrived by bus, instead of by plane – over six hours late, tired and embarrassed, thinking that this is just what a guy like Dave expects from a stupid easterner like me.

The first thing Dave Tichowsky did is hand me the keys to one of his courtesy vehicles and direct me to a good restaurant where I could rest up, eat up & warm up.

When I got back to Dave’s shop he and his team were busy – so I went into the service bays, picked up a broom and swept each one clean.

Maybe because Dave showed me a side I didn’t expect to see, and I showed him gratitude in a manner he didn’t expect to see in me, Dave and I mentally “moved a common ground”: one that was neither his, mine or some contrived compromise.

We spent the balance of our time together talking about how he had built his business one customer at a time – calling everyone in the Lloydminster phone book and asking if he could care for his or her vehicles. He also explained to me why he believed that the new national advertising campaign would ruin his market. I agreed with him, went back and convinced Midas Canada to allow me to “buy around” Lloydminster TV and give Dave a local radio buy instead. Dave was delighted. Midas Canada was delighted and Ogilvy had another shining example of how well we knew and could manage their business.

What I re-learned then and am reminded of now is that the ‘common ground’ that Dave Tichowsky entered into with me enabled us to address issues and opportunities with clarity and integrity. And that encouraged me to come up with creative, yet practical solutions that made sense to all stakeholders – especially the customers.

My experience with people like Dave has taught me to do my homework in order to ensure that my solution works short and long term. That involves finding a common, objective ground where I can work objectively with all stakeholders.