Almanacs declare late summer as the “Dog Days,” complete with high humidity, blazing heat, and the need to retreat to cooler locations from sunrise to sunset. For many business owners and managers, it is also the time to take stock of the first half of the year and plan strategies for the remaining months. This type of review and planning may be easier to do when divided into three sections, simply enough: past, present and future.
Taken slightly out of sequence, reviewing where you are at present may be the single most important place to begin. Start by balancing where your marketing and sales projections placed you at mid-year with your actual profit and loss statements. Have you reached or surpassed these estimates, or is the business lagging behind? Where were successes and challenges noted and why? If time does not permit an expanded review at present, even a brief overview will provide hints about how the business is doing and where adjustments can be made.
A number of ag-related enterprises only reach full sales at this time of year and into the fall and holiday season, but a mid-year review allows you to align production, harvesting and marketing with your resources and budget. For these types of operations, production and harvesting projections now help you prepare for labor and other upcoming requirements. Many marketing outlets from independent farmers markets to chain stores expect mid-year reports from producers to plan their own upcoming product streams. This makes individual business reviews even more imperative to complete.
Projections lead into what future needs may be. It is often at this point, that producers can spot trends and plan carefully for the remainder of the year. Also upcoming special events and seasonal promotions add to regular sales, labor and overall preparation requirements. Special fall wine tastings, weddings, harvest celebrations, farm dinners and u-pick operations may call for additional seasonal help, expanded inventory, equipment preparation, advertising and promotional pushes and schedule adjustments. Planning for these contingencies now, allows for some breathing room when emergencies or unexpected challenges arise later.
Looking over your shoulder at the past few months may seem like another unwanted job to do at mid-year. Yet, if sales are lagging or you are not meeting wholesale contract projections, what has taken place in the first part of the year may reveal the “why” of your present situation. Perhaps planting and production schedules fell off or were pushed back, weather did not cooperate, or equipment failures caused timing problems. Playing catch-up through mid-season makes it difficult to plan for future events while still ironing-out past and present conflicts. Taking the time now to review the first part of the season and resolving continuing problems must be a priority if you are to successfully launch into the new season.
As a part of any business review it is wise also to engage trusted managers, employees and selling partners to gain as much perspective as possible. One branch of an operation may be running smoothly, while another is dealing with challenges. Different points of view help paint the overall picture of how well a business is doing.
Thinking back to the early days of this year, of the cold winter and perhaps a rainy spring, we appreciate long summer days, the Dog Days, but look forward as well to the upcoming seasons ahead. Taking the time to review the past, acknowledge the present, and plan for the future at mid-year is more than taking stock of things. It offers the opportunity to do a reality check of where operations need updates and changes to finish out the year strong.
The above information is presented for educational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional business and legal counseling.