Recently I interviewed a man for a job as manager of one of the Agway T.S.P.F.TM Heifer Farms. This position involves overseeing the care of 3,500 animals, supervising a staff of 13 people, adhering to a budget, and interacting with customers and potential customers.
Recently I interviewed a man for a job as manager of one of the Agway T.S.P.F.TM Heifer Farms. This position involves overseeing the care of 3,500 animals, supervising a staff of 13 people, adhering to a budget, and interacting with customers and potential customers. The individual I was interviewing presently owns and operates a dairy farm. As I reviewed his references, I noted he listed his veterinarian, describing him as "farm veterinarian and consultant". The use of the last word immediately created a favorable impression of both the applicant and the doctor.
The word "consultant" has probably been overused, and in somecases carries a negative connotation. There are almost as many jokes aboutconsultants as about lawyers. Many years ago I named my own practice "DairyManagement Consultants", but I would choose a different moniker today.
Despite the negative connotations, "consultant" accuratelydescribes one of the roles veterinarians fulfill on dairy farms. When Isaw that my job candidate used it as he described his relationship withthe doctor, it told me that on his farm, the consulting role was a majorone.
It also suggested that he values information, and, in turn, sources ofinformation. I believe this orientation will be helpful as he deals withthe many challenges inherent in the manager's position.
Power of suggestion
I did not recognize the name of the veterinarian, but I visualized himin the consultant's role. That told me he structured his practice to allowhim to spend time delivering information to clients. And that, in turn,increased his value to me as a reference. From the position of consultant,he could tell me if the producer effectively used new knowledge.
It is inevitable that all dairy practitioners do some consulting. Everytime we suggest treatment protocols to be executed by farm personnel, weare transferring knowledge, compared to performing a procedure ourselves.Some doctors seek to develop the consulting role as their primary activity,while others prefer to be "doers" rather than "talkers".They prefer to be "hands-on".
There is nothing wrong with either approach, depending purely on personalpreference. Typically, the hands-on approach best serves smaller farms,while larger producers prefer to pay for training and advice, and let theirown people do the actual work.
As larger farms tend to become more common, future opportunities fallmore into the consulting role than in the doing mode.
During an interview with another candidate for the job, I asked howhe would market our program to potential customers. Part of his answer wasto acquaint the dairy veterinarians in our area with our program.
While this applicant was not a dairy farmer, he had worked in the dairyindustry for many years, and recognized that veterinarians were regardedas key sources of information. Therefore, our marketing efforts should includea plan to inform practitioners of all that we do.
I have one more situation that reflects how the veterinarian is viewed.Several months ago, an accusation was made against an employee, saying thatthis person was too rough in the way he handled animals. This is a seriouscharge, and could result in termination. To investigate, I interviewed theperson, his superior and his co-workers. And I also made sure I talked tothe veterinarian who provided service to this facility. I knew she workedwith the person in question, and would have observed if he had tendenciesto be abusive. She also observed all the animals on the farm regularly,and could comment on odd injuries or excessive fear. Thankfully, she andall others exonerated the individual.
The common thread of the situations previously outlined is that dairypractitioners are viewed as key sources of information, both to dairy producersand about them. Yet, many veterinarians seem to ignore this inherent value.Some of these same doctors desire more income, and would like to reducenight and weekend work. The way to accomplish these goals is to transformfrom "doer" to "teacher".
Think for a moment of the type of call that summons you out when youprefer to be at home or pursuing some other activity. I suggest that 75percent of those calls involve doing something that can be taught to laypeople. This was proven to me by a solo practitioner who made no emergencycalls, but maintained a facility where animals could be brought to him.He also was available for phone consultation most of the time.
In addition, he thoroughly trained his clients on performing physicals,delivering calves, replacing prolapses, giving IV injections and followingstandard treatment protocols. With this approach, he maintained a loyalclient base that supported him during the hours he chose to work, appreciatedthe training he provided, and largely left him alone during nights, weekendsand holidays.
When the situation occurred that truly demanded his presence, the animalwas brought to him, but those instances were relatively rare.
It is often said that we are living in the "information age".Computers make it much easier to summarize, interpret and communicate data.As access to information becomes more available, successful business peopleare those who use it. Dairy producers are included in this group, and youbecome more valuable to them when you are a source of information as wellas the doer of tasks. Your long range planning should address this fact.