The Power of Network

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual AAPEX (association of agricultural production executives) meeting, which is the alumni peer group that producers can attend after completing TEPAP (the executive program of agricultural producers) down in Palm Desert.  It was a fantastic three days of networking, thought provoking guest speakers, and my favorite – attempting to take all of those thoughts and ideas, and capturing it in a couple nuggets of gold to incorporate into our own operations strategy.

I’ve been contemplating the beginning of my blogging journey for a while. Friends and family have suggested it, and 5% Rule Presentation attendees have noted they would enjoy it. However, tonight as I’m travelling to St John’s for meetings, the serenity of getting some thoughts on paper is what finally makes me take my maiden voyage.

The Power of Network – what exactly does it mean? As a verb, “network” is defined as “to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment, or moving to a higher position.”  For those of you who have joined me on the journey, of following Harvey Sceptre on the show SUITS, he may portray the functionality of network to a special level. In my opinion, network is simply cultivating relationships with all those you interact with, and in cultivating these relationships, always acting fairly and being engaged; and most importantly, learning from these relationships. It is my belief, we should be able to learn something from everyone we meet, and we will never know when that piece of knowledge will come in handy.

This is where events such as AAPEX are so valuable. Dr. David Kohl noted in his presentation that, as ag leaders, it is part of our role to network, and ensure that we network at a minimum 30 per cent outside of our industry as to not be caught in group think, or regional and industry specific views.  Our business world is becoming smaller by the day, with extreme speed of technological advances. Are we, as ag producers, ready for it?  Are we ensuring our operation is looking ahead of the curve for oncoming changes, and implementing those that make sense, in order to stay ahead of the curve?

One presenter, who really caught my attention, was Jack Uldrich, a global futurist. He enlightened me on some technologies coming down the pipeline, that may create transformative change in our industry; developments such as wearable technology, augmented reality, 3D printing, bandwidth, nanotechnology, robotics, internet of things, gene-sequencing, gene-editing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain . If you haven’t heard of all of these (as I hadn’t), I would highly recommend allocating some of your screen time to researching the uses in agriculture.

However, it wasn’t all of these great technologies that really struck me about his presentation. It was the simple title and it’s meeting. The presentation was coined “AHA.”

A – Awareness – what are the trends you are focusing on?

This could be trends such as big data, policy and program changes, consumer transparency, the bandwidth increase in rural communities, or even the increase in the proportion of workforce that will be made up of millennials.

H – Humility  what assumptions do you focus on, that you may want to challenge?

In a world where change is a constant, and the speed of change is exponential, we must always question past facts, assumptions and decisions on which we are basing new philosophy..

Some ideas and areas, where past assumptions may be disrupted, include urban farming, Uber for freight, equipment-sharing, blockchain, how we manage people, land values, and capital invested in equipment.

A – Action – the riskiest thing to do is to play it safe.

The best bet, is to start taking small risks in the areas you are comfortable. At least you are moving forward. The best part of being an entrepreneur, is that you can always change your decision and direction.

To wrap it up, I would urge you to allocate some time to networking, with an open mind to learn something from everyone. Be aware, be humble, and take action. Try to find the current “can’t do”, in your operation, that needs to be a “can do.”  The easiest way to get passed in life, and in business, is to stand still.

Remember, passion and people are powerful tools.