How many workshops have you sat through that were designed to teach women about money and farm financials? Invariably, the focus is on financial transactions, numbers and spreadsheets – not on understanding your relationship with money.
Women often avoid the transactional side of finances UNTIL they can accept their emotional connection with money. Research reveals women and men do not think, talk or handle money the same way. For example, since women (on average) earn less money during their lives, they tend to see money as a pool that can run dry. Men tend to see money as a faucet they can turn off or on. Research shows men are better at taking risks with money. However, women are better at investing because they kick the tires, do homework, make their decisions and stay consistent.
I have interviewed hundreds of commodity brokers in my former career as an agricultural journalist, and hands down the brokers say the wife or woman partner on a farm does a better job of marketing the crop long term. Men tend to focus on moving in and out of commodity trades – women are more patient.
By discovering what drives your financial habits and choices, you can experience power with money. Figure out how emotions play into your financial decisions. Use this knowledge to guard against your weaknesses or play up your strengths. For example, did you grow up on a farm, packing your lunch every school day because your parents thought it best to feed you from their own pantry than pay for school food? How does this impact your decisions to eat out on a weekly/daily basis? Does it color your concept of consumer prices, food choices?
Here are two easy tips to begin understanding your relationship with money:
- What is your money FOR? What kind of future or legacy do you wish to shape? In your opinion, is your money used for the basics of living life or to help create a life worth living?
- What does financial security mean to you? Most women are taught that money equals financial security and a golden-paved road to happiness. But money can be immobilizing when you can’t decide how much money is enough. Money can bring guilt or even shame. Work with a Certified Financial Planner who is willing to talk through YOUR emotional and financial goals to security.
The reality is that life takes money. If you learn your emotional connection to finances, you will gain more control over your life choices.
I’m a reader. I’m a fast reader. Maybe I’m more of a skimmer. When I have a problem, whether in my business life or personal life, I go to my bookshelf and look for an author wiser, smarter, older or more interesting than me to give me additional guidance.
This is how I started my collection of business books. They range from the classics, such as Good to Great by Jim Collins and the Art of War by Sun Tzu to some very technical books like Farm Management Principles and Strategies by Kent Olson, a professor at the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota.
I have a great collection of books dedicated to women in business, which are always fun to read, given their unique perspective.
Looking for something new to guide you in 2016? Here’s what I’m reading right now:
- Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What they Got Out of Getting It Wrong – by Jessica Bacal. Twenty-five successful women share their toughest on-the-job moments. These innovators across various fields reveal that they’re more thoughtful, purposeful and assertive leaders because they learned from their mistakes…not because they didn’t make any.
- The Better People Leader – by Charles A. Coonradt. This book explores the crucial role leaders have in creating environments that foster success and teaches the principles that unlock keys to employee involvement, engagement and energy.
- New Rules @ Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead – by Barbara Pachter. Are you breaking into a new job? Moving up at work? Trying to make a good professional impression? This essential guide outlines every mistake you shouldn’t make paired with real-life anecdotes to understand modern business etiquette.
- Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together…Finally – by Nicole Lapin. Money expert and financial journalist Nicole Lapin lays out a 12-step plan that rethinks every bit of financial wisdom you’ve ever heard and puts her own, fresh, modern and sassy spin on it.
- Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want – by Dan Sullivan. Most of us are raised to fit in, taught we have to adapt ourselves to be useful and succeed. But your greatest strength lies in who you are already. This book helps define your own Unique Ability to create the life you want at work and at home.
If you don’t set goals, you don’t have a plan to move forward, right? Hence the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. The reason these resolutions often fail is because we set unrealistic goals. As women entrepreneurs, farmers and agribusiness professionals, we will always try and conquer the unconquerable!
Instead, let’s set goals we can reach if we stretch ourselves: goals that make us smarter, stronger or less stressed; goals that make us better both professionally and personally.
Here are 5 New Year’s Resolutions that every women in agriculture should consider for 2016:
- Become a better leader. One of the top challenges I hear often from women who farm or manage farm operations is a lack of leadership skills. For those of you who grew up in your family farm business, you may be faced with managing an employee who once saw you in diapers or as a kid running around in the hay fields! As a woman, sometimes the challenge of delegating tasks comes with additional issues related to age, sexism or even knowledge. Make a goal to shore up your leadership skills: attend a conference, read a leadership book (see my blog on best business books) or make a short list of things you can do to improve morale in the office.
- Tell your story. One area women in business excel in is communication. So why don’t we tell our business story more often? Is it that we haven’t practiced? Are we shy? Are we embarrassed? More than ever, agriculture needs passionate women telling consumers about the quality of their food and why we work in this field. The ag industry is in desperate need of “foot soldiers” who can talk about modern food production in positive ways. Make it a goal this year to talk to three new people each month about agriculture, about what you do as a woman farmer or women in agribusiness.
- Spend less time in the office. Most of the business women I know are overachievers. We work 60 hours a week and wear that number like a badge of honor. Yet spending every waking minute on work just means we are going to burn out faster. It also means we become more tired easily and can lose sight each day of why we are in this business of agriculture. We can become resentful. We lose our playfulness and our joy. If you work in a home office like I do, it’s all too easy to sneak back into that office at night and finish “one more task”. Let’s make a goal to shut the door at the end of good day’s work and spend more time on ourselves, family and friends.
- Hire the right people. Far too often we as women find ourselves doing the jobs of three employees, and once we decide to hire help, we hire the first breathing person we can find. It’s ironic that women tend to be more people-oriented, but we are often terrible at hiring! Hiring isn’t easy, but the right people in your business are worth the wait. As Jim Collins says in his famous book Good to Great: “Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats”. The bus is your business. The right people will not only bring out the best in your future business, but also your current team. Note: this also goes for your personal life. The happiest, most productive business women I know also have a team of employees or contractors to help them manage their home (think cleaning and shopping). But hold out for the right people!
- Stay up on current business events. I am shocked by how many women in agriculture don’t read the daily news. How can you run a business without knowing what is happening in the world? Agriculture is keenly affected by consumer trends, both good and bad, and by world markets. I make myself read the Wall Street Journal every day – a habit I have kept up since I left journalism school in 1995. Even if I don’t have time to read a full story, I skim the headlines. If an agriculture story catches my eye, I rip out that page and put it into a folder for later “deep reading”. Then I pull out that folder every Friday afternoon. Read so that you have the insight to make informed decisions in 2016.