It’s not something many of us want to hear.  If you’re like most dairy farmers, your farm is your baby.  Moreover, hearing that your baby is ugly could be the hardest thing anyone could ever say to you.  However, it could be the best thing that ever happens to you as well.

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If you are like most dairy farmers or parents, the hardest thing you could ever admit is that your child/business is ugly.  We all want to believe that this entity that we have poured our heart and soul into is the most beautiful thing in the world.  But it takes that ability to realize that your baby/business is not perfect that allows us to help them/it become the best it can be. One thing I have realized in the many businesses that I have run, and now as a parent is, my baby is not beautiful, but it is amazing.  And it’s my job as the parent/business owner to do all that I can to make that ugly baby become the beautiful person/business I know it can be.

Sure dairy farming is a way of life for many, but it is also a business.  And maybe because we have trouble separating the two, is why most dairy farmers have a harder time understanding our baby is ugly compared to other industries. Well except 20 something tech startups, they all seem to think they have the next great Billion dollar idea, that they don’t realize is ugly until they have spent 2 million of their parents, grandparents and family members hard earned cash.

The weak among us, love to fool ourselves that everything is fine, everything is going to be ok.  The thing is everything is not fine.  Milk prices are low relative to input costs, and the industry is probably facing some of the toughest challenges it has ever faced.  However, we all want to believe that is external and that our baby is beautiful.  The thing is, those who are most successful understand that their baby is not beautiful.  They understand that their business that they are so passionate about is not perfect.  That there is opportunities to improve their business in order to make it beautiful.

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We can all see the flaws in other people’s babies, but yet can not even begin to understand the challenges our babies are facing. We all have the fear that if you react negatively to your own baby, it will die.  But I am not saying you can not love your business.  You have to.  This is a tough industry, and you have to love what you do.  But you also need to be able to look at your business objectively.

Because people are inherently nice. We all want to be loved and treated with respect, so we usually do the same for others. We all love to surround ourselves with those people who will tell us how beautiful our business/farm is.  What parent/business owner does not like to listen to praise about how pretty their baby is.  Even the meanies and shit-stirrers will wait until the parents are out of hearing range before turning to a friend to say, “Wow, that baby was fricking ugly!” The thing is you are cheating yourself.  The problem is that does not bring about change.  That does not force you to make the changes your business needs in order to be the best it can be.

You cannot see the ugly because it’s your baby. What you need is to surround you and your business with the people who are willing to tell you the truth and what you need to hear, no matter how uncomfortable. The best advisers help you understand the changes you need to make, why you need to make them, and how to make them in order to improve your results.

Over time, the businesses that are led by people who would rather hear what they want to hear run into big trouble. The baby gets uglier and uglier. After they limp along for a while, the responsibility to make a decision falls to someone who wants to hear what he needs to hear. If you are wise enough to listen to the input of others, you can determine which parts are pretty and which parts need some work.

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The difference between the literal baby and the metaphorical baby, your farm, is that the real baby cannot be changed.  You cannot alter a little human’s appearance, so pointing out his or her ugly traits won’t help anything, and just makes you look like a total asshat. But when it comes to something that can be changed, and when constructive criticism may save someone from wasting even more time and money, then does it make sense to speak up and give your opinion?

Dairy farmers need to have thick skin. They need to persevere. They can’t get too attached to their baby because it may very well be hideous. Dairy farmers need to be able to take all the feedback they can get—the positive and the negative—and keep driving forward along the most appropriate road. If someone building a dairy business runs home crying after their baby is criticized, then as far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t be in business.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Your baby is ugly, but understanding that, and being willing to make the changes necessary help makes for a much prettier baby.