Jim Schweigert President, Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

We’ve all heard the common phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would subscribe to this way of thinking. It implies that you should always wait for something to completely fail before doing anything to improve or fix it.

If you apply it to running your business, it will eventually lead to your business’ downfall. It won’t happen overnight, but without improving your company, division, process or basic business practices, you will start a slow decline into irrelevance and failure.

That sounds harsh, but it’s reality. Human nature is to focus on only improving things that are broken or the squeaking wheel. But before the process is recognized as broken or an issue lingers long enough to start “squeaking,” it’s likely the business has already been negatively impacted and may have been suffering for quite a while.

Below are two quick tips to help you create a culture of proactive process and procedure evaluation to adjust or fix issues before they impact your business.

Red Teaming – This common military practice involves viewing your position from your competitors’ perspective and developing strategies and tactics to win against your own company. Red teaming can be applied on a whole-company basis or to analyze basic company processes and assumptions. For example, what could another company offer your employees to entice them to leave? Viewing this scenario from an adversarial position can help you brainstorm new and creative ways to retain and reward employees.

Stress Tests – Most business processes and procedures are built for the normal or average way a business activity happens. Stress testing those processes and procedures means pushing the assumptions that created them to the limit. Say a company requires the site manager to document all field activities. This may work if the company only has a few fields with short distances between them, but how does this hold up as the company expands? Can the one person oversee double the fields, or triple? Keeping this process in place during expansion will mean either the manager will visit fields less often or take shortcuts in field evaluation just to complete the paperwork.

Every business process or management assumption must be constantly challenged. Red teaming and regular stress testing will help you see potential weaknesses before they damage your business.