This step is super simple, and super fun. Or should be anyway. In this step we're going to make a wish list for your coming season. You're going to write down every infrastructure, equipment, and tool investment that will help you address your Disappointments, and help you reach your Goals.
If you've read the intro to Step 4, you know I'm passionate about personal budgets. Which means that even though I'm not looking over your shoulder, I want you to imagine that I AM looking over your shoulder. I want you to take this step dangerously seriously. I want you to understand your finances, look your student loans in the eye, and tell the world how much money you spend on streaming subscriptions, or fancy chocolate bars, or that gym that you keep meaning to go to. I don't want you to stop buying that chocolate, but I do want to make sure you know how much money it costs, and I want you to decide if that's what you want to be spending your money on. Ready? Let's do it.
Step 4 of Hippo Camp is all about taking care of you, financially. That means we're going to figure out how much money you need to live on, then we're going to figure out how much money you're going to need to make this year to run your business plus achieve those big, beautiful, achievable goals you set in Step 3.
I, like many people (maybe most people) have a strained relationship with money. In our first few years of farming we were working full-time on the farm (about 40 hours) plus 1-3 off-farm jobs up to 20 hours per week. I felt sick to my stomach every time the 10th of the month rolled around (my credit card payment date) because I never knew what the amount was going to be, but it was usually more than I had in my bank account. I felt like I had no control over my money. It felt like I just needed to work MORE, because more work meant more money, and what I needed was more money...right?
We all know we are supposed to set goals. We do it once a year, maybe, and then we lose them, forgotten in a notebook somewhere while we're busy battling weeds and hustling to sling our veg in the busy season. What sort of goals would you have to make right now to be able to keep them in the forefront of your mind ALL season? Would they be strong enough to guide you when you're trying to decide between tackling two tasks that feel equally important? Step 3 of Hippo Camp is to set those kinds of goals, and the subsequent steps will take those goals and turn them into actions that will filter through your calendar. Hopefully at this time next year you will be able to look back at these goals, and without needing to tattoo them to your forearm, you should be pleasantly surprised to see that you crushed them all to bits and pieces.
This is the super simple second step of Hippo Camp, and can almost be wrapped up into step 1. In this step you will look over your achievements and disappointments and categorize them into the following three categories: Keep Doing, Stop Doing, and Start Doing. This exercise is to help get you started in discussing your successes and frustrations. If you were disappointed in how many chickens were eaten by the local fox population, are you going to Keep Doing your chicken enterprise? Maybe, maybe not, but now is the time to start talking about it. Don't spend too much time on this step, but use it to start thinking of solutions to your frustrations, and to shine light on the things you are doing well. The act of writing them down will help solidify them in your brain. It's science.
Here's a link to a quick printable to get you started.
If this is your first ever business planning adventure, please skip to step 3: yearly goals. If you've been in business for a year or two, or twelve, grab some paper and your management team and let's get into it.
Hippocampus. It's the part of your brain that is associated with space and memory. It's also how I think about business planning. My goal with our annual business plan (we call it Hippo Camp) is to do all the thinking upfront, then rely on that plan to help alleviate decision making fatigue in the heat of the farming season.
New farms are exhilarating. The adrenaline is pumping, things are growing, and seeing your name on the local menus is intoxicating. Then you get to year three, and you realize that adrenaline is the only thing keeping you going. You realize you've been in crisis management mode for two years, and you can't really see a time when your life will return to a comfortable 5 day work week. Or 6 even. I realized this while chest deep in a snow drift while Jake was on a family vacation and out of cell service. I had already worked a ten hour day, I was about to spend Christmas alone, and my car wouldn't start. I still can't go through the bank's drive-through for fear that they will recognize me as the one who sobbed her way through a deposit transaction in 2015.
Taylor Mendell. I grow things for people to eat.