A New Year, A New Strategic Outlook?

- Jeff Elwer

2016 – what a year… pivotal and important merger and acquisition announcements were made, and the United States elected a new President whose policies and approach to agricultural markets could disrupt or benefit our industry even more.

With such volatility and uncertainty carrying over to the new year, 2017 is already starting off on uncertain footing. Numerous questions have arisen throughout the industry in the last calendar year. Though caution and limited investment in capital projects and equipment purchases might feel right in this moment, it is also an opportune time to reassess your strategic vision for the coming year, and the decade that will follow. As you assess immediate needs and opportunities for 2017, what are key questions and actions you and your company can be taking during this time of uncertainty?

Ask: What do we do well, and what can we do better?

Is your operation as efficient as it can be? Where are there operational deficiencies and thus opportunities for improvement? Processing lines become less efficient over time due to operational wear and tear of equipment, inefficient processes, as well as falling-behind the technological curve of available equipment, improved engineering, and the greater efficiencies these provide.

Ask: What are our most immediate needs, and how do those needs affect our overall process?

Identifying immediate needs in the context of overall operation is no small task. Though an identified need may seem isolated in the overall process, addressing that need may create additional needs up or down stream within your facilities. Ask what your most immediate needs are, but also be prepared to assess how a change or changes could impact your operations overall.

Ask: What is our competition doing, where is the market moving, and what are we doing to remain competitive?

Staying current with market, industry, and competitor trends is crucial. But those questions inform an even greater question: do we have a strategic vision and how does it inform and affect our decisions? Identifying and anticipating needs positions you to thrive in 2017 and beyond.

Act:

Important factors of a global scale will come to fruition throughout 2017, affecting your company’s commitment and ability to pursue immediate investments and operational improvements. In this climate, 2017 is an opportune time to invest in your strategic vision.

Identifying what you do well and areas for improvement; immediate needs and how those needs impact overall operations; as well as looking at shifting market and industry needs are crucial investments. These demands will likely require additional support and guidance from an industry leader intimately knowledgeable about various factors including advancements in equipment design and operation, facility and process design, as well as industry trends.

As we begin a new year with so many questions, now is the time for a new strategic outlook to shape and sustain your success for years to come.