Doing Business

by James Banahan

by James Banahan

“I don’t owe him a living.”

“Never let your heart get in the way of your business.”

I’ve heard both things in the past month. At first, they might seem a bit harsh, yeah? It’s the talk of a Wall Street banker or a soundbite from a Donald Trump fundraiser. Except the people who said these things weren’t bankers or politicians—they were said to me by people in the ag industry. And that got me to thinking. How often do we let our loyalty to a person, product, or company cloud or judgment?

I know that I’m guilty of it. I like Ford trucks and I’m pretty sure that if somebody gave me a heck of a deal on a new truck that wasn’t a Ford, I probably wouldn’t take it.

And that’s not a great business decision, obviously.

But it’s tough to edit the gut emotion out of some transactions. Think about your own operation and how many livings get made from it. Some of you might argue that it’s barely you and your family that make a living, but we could also point to the banker, the equipment dealer, even your agronomist. To some degree, all of that is more or less right on.

It’s a complicated web, made even more complicated by our allegiances and preferences and values. There can be a lot of emotion as we deal with these people—perhaps positive emotion, and perhaps negative too—but we would do well to remember that business is business. You really don’t owe anyone a living.Farmers Handshake

On the flip side, no one really owes you a living either. That might sound harsh, but you already know it’s true. Does the Board of Trade owe you a living? Not likely. Just look at the markets. Does your equipment dealer? Highly unlikely. How about your input supplier?

Well…that one depends.

If you haven’t already, you may soon be getting a patronage check back from Central Valley Ag, which, as many of you know, is a percentage of the business that you did with CVA in the past year. We want to reinvest the money that you spend with us in your hometown, in your operation, because we kind of do owe you a living, because we are you.

This is one of my favorite things about working for a cooperative like CVA. We’re not a national supplier focused solely on selling bags. We’re your neighbors. The shareholders that we answer to are you.

Which isn’t to make an emotional appeal to you, but actually one based in good business practice. We have your best interest at heart because we answer to you, and no one else.

I hope that you’ll remember that the next time your FSA comes knocking to talk with you about plans for next year. That man or woman standing there is responsible to you and eager to invest his or her time in your success. Sure, a product or two might cost a bit more, and perhaps he or she will be driving a Chevy instead of a Ford, but give it a chance, and let your business decide what is best.