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Success Strategies: From humiliation to significance


By John Ellsworth


John Ellsworth of Modesto, Calif., is a consultant with the financial and strategic consulting firm Success Strategies. He can be reached at 209-988-8960, or by e-mail: john@success-strategies.com.By the time you read this article,  I hope you are enjoying much higher milk prices than we are seeing as I write this in August. 

However, even if you are, I am concerned that, as an industry, we have some difficult issues to deal with. I am not talking about the supply and demand imbalances that occur periodically, or the ridiculous feed prices we’ve seen this past year.

Of course these issues are significant, but I am far more concerned about a much larger issue. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to witness several cases where a dairy producer came to me and, with tears in his eyes, literally said he did not know how to make this all work. After 25 years in the business, he was absolutely overwhelmed by the challenges he faced with such thin margins in our industry. I know what you are thinking – thin margins? How about negative margins with feed bills consuming 80% of the milk check?

I have witnessed a banker telling a dairyman there was no way he would be able to survive (I strongly disagreed), and that there was no way he would provide him with one penny to move forward with his turnaround plan.

Where did that leave this producer and his family? Heartbroken, but more significantly, humiliated. As Larry the Cable Guy would say, “That just ain’t right!”

Unfortunately, this banker lacked any “bedside manner,” but we still have a bigger issue to deal with. How do we move this producer, or for that matter, any producer, from a state of humiliation to one that is more healthy and harmonious? 

I believe a good starting point is to realize that no one, not even producers who have been in business for 25+ years, can receive $15/cwt. for their milk, have $11/cwt. feed costs, and still cover all their other costs. It simply cannot be done. 

I know this feeling of being slammed, not financially, but personally. I had a former colleague who once told me he didn’t think I would make it in the world of business. For a short while, I thought he might be right. But, after some reflection, I decided he was wrong. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to consult with clients in 20 states. He was forced to sell his company in 2010. 

The point is every one of us has challenges, but wherever we are in life, as Les Brown said, “We made an appointment to be there.” So, why not make an appointment now to reach a higher level of success? 

Yes, our industry has been tough on people, but life goes on. Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor of all times, faced failure after failure before he developed the light bulb and multiple other items that led to the development of this little company known today as General Electric. Steve Jobs was pushed out of his company, returning 10 years later to put Apple back into the spotlight. What are you waiting for? Are you going to be humiliated, or set some goals for reaching new levels of significance? It is entirely your choice!

I believe that what happens to you is never that important. What really matters is how you respond to it. Whether your dairy operation survives this downturn, or you are forced to liquidate, you still need to plan for your future and set some new goals for yourself. 

If you are one of the industry survivors, congratulations. How will you position yourself so you are better prepared for the next downturn? Give that some serious thought. Your future may be depending on it.

Check out our website at www.success-strategies.com. You’ll find many articles and tools that may be of help to you, and be sure to look for my “Top 20” list of items you need to succeed. They will be coming soon, and I hope you find them helpful.

What’s next? It’s your move.


“The first rule of survival is clear. Nothing is more dangerous than yesterday’s success.”

~Alvin Toffler