Working on your business, not in it.

Top 5 tips from the outback that apply to business

Developing a masterful business strategy is paramount to the growth and success of any business whether it’s a law or a floor tiling firm. I have been assisting business owners and executives to design and execute effective business plans for over two decades but I’ve recently discovered the Australian outback has some unique lessons that can be adapted to corporate city life.

  1. When you build a fence to keep your cows in it needs to be straight. If you strain your wires over a crooked line of posts then it will eventually become unreliable. The posts will lean over, the wire will lose its tension and your cows will step over it. Likewise, in business you need to talk straight so the lines of communication remain clear. Half-truth’s, omissions and manipulation don’t work. Eventually your staff, customer and suppliers will work it out and your system will fall over.
  2. A tractor needs to be maintained. The core functions of the engine and hydraulics need to be checked regularly. Clean fuel, clean oil and clean air are critical. Similarly, in business systems need maintenance. This includes the systems we use to train our people, the marketing systems we use to attract new customers and the control systems we use to manage production and finance. If you don’t change the oil then your people will get sluggish. If you don’t change the air filter your systems will choke. Don’t wait for breakdowns. Plan your maintenance.
  3. On a farm in the outback you need to have back up plans for when the next drought arrives because it will happen. You need to be ready to move your cattle when the grass runs out, bring in supplements like molasses and hay and steel yourself for the duration. Again, in business you need back up plans and safety nets to manage unwanted surprises. You need access to emergency reserves of capital to carry you through the tougher times. So stay close to your banker, keep your admin tight and compete like you’re always in drought.
  4. When you are moving cattle (and assuming they are quiet) they will follow you and your horse. They trust that you know where you’re going. If you don’t give them sufficient guidance they will wander all over the paddock and you will lose them. The same thing happens in business. Don’t expect your team to know where you want them to go. They need clear direction and just like cows need fences, people need plans, systems and procedures to follow. A business must have a strategic goal and an execution plan to make things happen.
  5. Sometimes you need to get away from your farm to regain some perspective on what you’re trying to achieve. Take a road trip, blow the dust out of your ears and spend time with someone who will challenge you. You need to step out of your own fish bowl and invite your management team to look at your operation with fresh eyes. You need to answer the same questions every business must answer namely;
    • Where are you now?
    • What are you capable of?
    • Where are you going?
    • How will you get there?
Andrew Poots
About the author

I grew up in a small town called Clermont in Central Queensland, went to boarding school from 13, went to uni and became an accountant. I did my time, got married, had kids and went into business for myself and did OK. I built a business from nil to $5M in revenue with an EBIT of $1.5M with 25 staff and 6,000 clients. Then after 25 years of working I bought a cattle station in Western Queensland to get back into something I was missing. Everyone thought I was mad. Having a mid life crisis etc. Cattle, horses, fencing, hats and boots. I realised that I had been masquerading as a city boy when I was actually a country boy. The romance, the rugged lifestyle and the people were always appealing to me and I wanted more of it and this adventure continues today.

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