Many of us have experienced large disruptions these past few months, to our farm businesses, families and finances. These are not easy times, and we live in an age of uncertainties. That creates stress, and it is all too easy to respond to stress by wanting to either ignore present realities or make snap judgments. Both of those responses are not sustainable, and actually can be rather harmful, in our efforts to get through this crisis. Our farm businesses, families and finances all suffer when we turn away from confronting issues or when we make uninformed decisions.
For farm businesses, a positive response is to better understand our operations from a financial perspective. That comes through better records, quite simply. Good records are not complicated, but they do require attention, commitment, and, yes, education. We might not understand how to keep accurate books, or even why we need them! Perhaps we think of records as just something for the tax return or to keep the government off our backs. And we don’t really look at the numbers beyond those unpleasant occasions. If that is the case, we are, in essence, “flying blind” when trying to run our business. And with the current stormy conditions, it is very risky to be guiding the plane without knowing where you have been, where you are or where you are going. Good records clear away the fog and help you to see the landing strip ahead.
As decisions come to us, sometimes just normal day-to-day types of things and other times more substantial opportunities or challenges, we need good information, and that comes through good records. We can be prepared to make wise decisions based on facts, rather than just “thinking” it is one way or the other. Our first step may be to educate ourselves about recordkeeping.
There are many online resources and courses, many of which are free. Farm Credit East staff often help customers to learn recordkeeping and how to use software such as CenterPoint or QuickBooks. Many customers choose to engage Farm Credit East to complete their records. But, ultimately, you must use those numbers when managing your farm business.
To go back to our flying analogy, if you have a way to obtain good records, but don’t use those records, then you are like the pilot who shuts her eyes and just hopes the plane lands itself. Talk about a scary flight! The alternative is to have our eyes wide open, to look at the records, understand what they mean, and then act on them. A very current example is the Paycheck Protection Program: good records enabled a simpler application process and will now enable decisions to be made regarding applying for forgiveness.
If you are ready to improve your records and how you use them, please take a step forward. Educate yourself and help your farm business to be more responsive during these difficult times. Reach out to a Farm Credit East records specialist to help you get a system in place, and to a consultant to help you understand how to use them. Now is the time to be open to change, to information, and to putting together a team to help your farm business thrive.