Delivery & Installation, Operations, V8I2

Do You Have a Plan?

(Photo courtesy of Raychel Sanner from Pexels)

It was hot. Irritatingly hot. Riding on the wagon in one direction, the barely noticeable breeze blew the hay clippings back on his neck. Going the other way, there was no breeze at all. 

The boy winced. He wanted to go fishing, but there were still rows and rows of hay to get baled. And every single bale had to be stacked on the wagon and, worse yet, put in the barn.

Why didn’t they do it yesterday while it was nice and cool, he thought. Well, because Gpa was picky. Yesterday it was still too wet, and now here they were. 

Finally, they were finished. All the bales were in the barn and tucked neatly away up in the loft. But now there were cows to milk, hogs to slop, chickens to check, sheep to bed, and horses to feed. Dogs, cats, rats, and all, everyone had to eat. 

It was dark when they both walked into the house for supper.

Then he saw it. Lightning way off in the distance. One hundred miles away or better. He paused. There still wasn’t much breeze. In they went. After a shower and a big bowl of cold banana soup, he dragged himself to bed. 

Sometime during the night, the storm hit hard. Lightning, thunder, and wind. He listened a while as the storm lashed above his head. Then he rolled over and closed his eyes because Gpa had taught him well. All the animals were safe and inside. All the doors were locked down tight, right where they should be.

 Just before he drifted back to sleep, in the midst of the retreating thunder, he heard Gpa downstairs, snoring. All was well.

As I prepare to write this tonight, Ukraine has just been bombed by Russia, trucks are convoying toward D.C., and Canada is in disarray from people fed up with their leaders. The storm is brewing, and the bubble keeps growing.

Everywhere I go, people ask, “How long?” Sounds completely disheartening, doesn’t it?

No one knows what tomorrow may bring—now worse than at any time in my short 50 years. And yet, we remain strong, do not live in fear, and push forward. It’s what we do. There’s no need to give up; we carry on. We could all use a little love and barbecue, as Richard Miller would say.

So. What are we doing?

When I see a summer storm brewing, I make sure everything is in order, the tools and machinery put up, and the hatches battened down. All the doors are tightly closed. Well, they would be if I had doors. Those who visit my place look in wonderment and shake their heads. One day. But that’s what we do in a storm.

And we can most definitely see this one coming.

I hope you have a tight team all the way through. Everyone should be talking and know where they’re headed. Know where everyone is and what happens next. 

Communication is an absolute must when you’re preparing for a storm. It might take more transparency from everyone, including the boss. Everyone needs to be on the same page. There needs to be a plan—a continuation plan and a survival plan. 

“He who fails to plan has planned to fail.”

What else? Identify your problems now. Of course, before you can do that, you must be willing to stop and look around to see your issues. Then you can identify them. Self-evaluate. Team evaluate. This needs to happen company-wide.

Here’s an example. I see some haulers losing their shirts right now. Their coats are already taken. When you ask them, they say the cost of fuel is eating them up, that’s the problem. But, is it really? They’re not sure. 

But fuel is only a part of the difficulty. Fuel is a crude oil problem first and directly affects everything else. Tires, oil, hydraulic fluids, and parts.

Wait, what? Parts? Yes, those parts get trucked in. Costs more. Then the equipment itself. The truck, trailer, and Mule. All have risen astronomically. Why’s that? Oh nothing much, just a little dirty word called inflation. 

“Oh yep, we all know about that. It happens every year.” Uh, yes, but not when it hits a seven-year increase in ONE YEAR. Never mind, I’m not here to point fingers or argue about the actual number.

Here is the definition of inflation: a general increase in prices and a fall in the purchasing value of money. 

Uh-oh. That’s a double whammy. Not only does all the stuff you buy go up in price, but your buying power has been weakened. Ouch. Okay, that’s depressing. Moving on.

Supply and demand. This is another touchy one. But plain and simple, when demand is, well, demanding, and supply dwindles, prices go up—as they should. If I want it, I will pay more. This can happen all the way across your team.

People, materials, equipment, you name it. When something or someone becomes unavailable, people pay more to get it. Even fuel prices work this way. When as little as 7 percent of our fuel is threatened, prices can skyrocket. Same with people. 

Equipment gets another double—triple—whammy. Equipment is made by more people, more parts, and has its own supply and demand.

Imagine selling a shed that you won’t be able to build for eight to 10 months. What happens to the value of that money in the meantime? 

I recently chatted with a dealer who was complaining about lead times on his custom orders. Nine to 11 weeks. That’s crazy. That’s where we were headed two years ago. I checked on his prices. Yep, you guessed it, way too low for his region’s average. But, that’s still better than nine to 11 months. 

Supply and demand can be very touchy. When customers trust the market, they buy, buy, buy. When they don’t (gasp!) they STOP. Then what? You need a bridge plan to get across the “no sales” chasm. You need reserves. Not just for you but for everyone. You should all be working on this.

Sure, you can keep building from your building fund, but don’t drain your reserves. Some of you guys do this really well. Some of you are more like me. Wide-open. The hay is in the field, we need it in the barn. 

But what happens if the process isn’t right? The hay gets hot, starts on fire, and burns the whole barn down. Set processes and stick with them. Build a reserve fund. Can I say this enough? Nope, not right now. Shoot, by the time you read this, it might be too late already. 

Don’t put everything in growth. You could do it at one time, but not now. Separate your growth fund from your reserve fund. Don’t get them mixed up.

If you aren’t making enough to cover a reserve fund, that’s your first problem to fix. Raise your prices or cut your spending. I hate cutting spending. I really do. I raise my prices. Only you can figure yours out.

Let’s get back to your preparations. Your people are your most important asset, especially when a storm is approaching. You’ll need them. Prepare and plan for them. Invest in them. Communicate with them. Encourage them. 

That new machine will not jump up and close the barn doors. It won’t replace a section of roof and it won’t refill the sandbags. It will do nothing for you in a storm when it’s most needed, but your people will. At least if you’ve built a proper team. And appreciated them. And loved them. And paid them well. You WILL need them.

That brings me to my wrap-up. It’s people. It’s really all about people. Relationships, love, and a little barbecue. You can have all the money in the world, and die lonely and heartbroken. It’s always the people that matter. 

My Gpa used to say you better have at least six friends, you’re gonna need ‘em. I am extremely and ridiculously blessed with people in my life. I don’t know anyone who has what I have, but it didn’t happen by accident. I’ve worked hard on my circle and at huge costs. I’ve made some really stupid business decisions to defend or help my friends.

And I’d do it again.

Bottom line. Trust God and love people. Hold tight to your people. You’re gonna need them. And they need you.

Thanks for listening, I gotta put more wood on the fire. And if you’d like, send me an invite. I’ll come sit around your fire.

We can eat some barbecue.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Current Issue

April/May 2024