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.
In this step you will need:
-A piece of paper with "Achievements" on one side, and "Disappointments" on the other side. You can download ours here.
-Different colors of highlighters. I like to have 4. You can also use symbols or colored crayons if you don't have a highlighter collection.
-Your entire management team at the minimum. Your entire crew if you can manage it.
The goal of this step:
To celebrate your successes from the season (that list will be longer than you expect), and to identify areas to work on for the coming season.
15 - 30 minutes
Prep your team to begin shouting out achievements and disappointments from the season. These should be short, but specific, ie "averaging $2k at market" rather than "good market sales". You should only be writing things down at this point, not discussing. If someone gets wordy or starts brainstorming solutions, gently remind them to get back to bullet points. There will be plenty of time for discussion.
Areas that might be on your list: financial goals, fertility, production methods, new things you tried, new (or old) customers, machinery, tools, times of burnout, times that were frustrating, your stutterstep/frustrations list if you have one.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and write it all down.
After 15 minutes, make sure everyone feels finished (we usually have another 5 minutes or so of conversation).
Next you will take a closer look at your disappointments list. We go through each point and highlight them according to the following categories: can be solved by research, infrastructure improvement, equipment improvement, or refining systems. You can have a little more discussion here, but try to discuss which category it falls into rather than what would be the best equipment to buy to fix it. Again, there will be time for that.
You now have a list of most of the roadblocks from your season, and an idea of how to begin tackling those problems. If you are a new farmer these issues will probably fall more into the infrastructure or equipment buckets, while experienced farmers will be more in the research and systems buckets.
You can now jump right to Step 2: Stop Doing/Keep Doing/ Start Doing, though I recommend not jumping past Step 3 on your first day.
Nice job! Let me know in the comments if anything surprising came up for you.
Taylor Mendell. I grow things for people to eat.