When do you know if hiring outside Holistic Management consultants is right for you? When should you heed the advice of an expert in creating the ideal land base that you desire? These are important questions that need to be asked before you pay for someone else’s opinion.
I have had the opportunity to travel around the United States and help farmers, ranchers, conversationalists and carbon farmers develop management plans and a decision-making strategy that works within their context for management and life. In this post, I will explore how to prepare for the consultant and what to expect in return.
First, we need to discuss the idea of “experts.”
Let me make this clear, there is no such thing as an expert for your ranch.
You are the single most important person to your landscape, it is your investment and your life–and don’t forget it! No one knows the complexities of your farm or ranch as well as you and absolutely know one knows about the complexities that are involved in your life. Consider that your land base is only one aspect of your whole under management. Don’t succumb this position to anyone, no matter how important you think they, and their message, are to your success. Remember, in whole and complex systems, there are no experts who operate alone, but there are people who have deep knowledge and mastery of certain skills that may benefit you.
Preparing for the Holistic Management consulting visit
It is important to have the key decision makers spend time with the consultant. In Holistic Management, the Whole Under Management is defined and the decision makers that influence this whole need to contribute to the Holistic Context for the Whole Under Management. Providing the consultant with the Holistic Context for the land is critical. Even if all decision makers cannot meet with the consultant, the key decision makers should have at least one conversation with the consultant.
One common mistake that people make when they solicit the advice of an consultant is that they have not defined their desired outcomes of the work. Have a series of pre-visit phone calls with the consultant to address what exactly you want from the visit and find out if there is enough time and/or information available to achieve these results. Let the person who is assisting you know what you want your land to be like in 10 years, 50 years, 100 years. Consider how working toward this will affect your quality of life in terms of profit potential and time spent toiling toward your dream.
Ask yourself: What do I want my life to be like?
This will save a lot of time and money for you and will allow the consultant to maximize their effectiveness as your employee.
Another common problem that people make when hiring a Holistic Management consultant, is that they take to much time showing what has already been accomplished. It is important for the consultant to guide the time together and make sure each minute is used to its greatest potential.
An example of this is a consultancy job that I did in Utah, where, during my 5-day site visit, I agreed to drive around with the land managers for four days to view the highlights of the ranch. Now I know better.I learned that at the end of the tour,I was no more clear on the Holistic Context of the rancher or the ranch. I knew they wanted greater grass production. There are countless ways to increase forage production, but there could be only one best way for these ranchers at this point in time to achieve increased forage production, while maintaining their desired profit, free time for family, and ecological benefits that they needed, but we didn’t discuss. I know now to ask about this upfront.In the end we did find a develop Holistic Management Plan that covered the important outcomes. The clients learned how to monitor changes in their landscape, how to make decisions that would allow them the flexibility adjust and re-plan as needed, in order to stay in alignment with their larger context.
Finding the right help
When choosing to engage in business with someone, look for indicators that the person is in business for the right reasons. I find it a little hard to swallow when I come across “experts” who strive to help their customers, and it just so happens that they also sell seed, wire, infrastructure, etc. The person that you hire to help you find the right path for you and your business should be interested in your desired outcomes and not just looking at your operation as if it were their own. Worse yet, they may look at how much seed or fencing they can sell you so that you can achieve your goal. The Holistic Management (or other type of) consultant should ask you questions and help you learn how to see the landscape through a new lens. When looking for help, find someone who you believe wants to know what motivates you. Stay away from people who occupy all the time in the conversation by listing their credentials and why they are so smart. If you get an uneasy feeling about them, trust it. In Holistic Management we call this the “gut feel” decision check.
What you really want: consulting or land management services
The best consultants are people who will listen to what you want and will then help you develop the planning procedures and processes to achieve your goals on your own. When I work with a consulting client, I am concentrating on understanding their motivations first.Then, I work on helping them develop their own skill set around Holistic Management planning procedures and processes so that they truly become confident managers who know how to read the land and make holistic decisions. When you start down the consulting road, make it clear that you expect to be able to have the skill sets and knowledge needed to independently manage holistically. Anything less isn’t hiring a consultant, but rather, it is hiring a management service. We offer this service to landowners all of the time, but we do not confuse it with consulting. Management services is an option for the land owner who is willing to take the consultant out of the “resource base” and allow the consultant to be a decision maker for the Whole Under Management. This is a great service for landowners who have no desire to manage an agricultural or conservation property but still want certain outcomes and objectives to be achieved. Realize that these two services are both valuable, but be clear from the start what road you want to go down so that you don’t get sold the wrong service.
Remember who’s vision is important
The most important thing when working with outside help is maintaining “your” vision for the landscape. No one else in the world needs to be satisfied with the progress or functionality of the property but you, the owner. You will often find people who will see your land as an opportunity for them to create their dreams, but that is not what they are there to do. Maintain ownership of the vision and it will happen. Lose the vision for your land, and you will likely be unsatisfied with the outcomes of your consulting investment.
Spencer Smith is owner and operator of the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management with his wife, Abbey. He is an accredited Holistic Management Field Professional with the Savory Institute and travels throughout North America conducting Holistic Management workshops, courses, events and one-on-one consultations with ranchers and farmers who are looking for the newest information on how to improve their land. With a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from CSU,Chico and experience managing large cow-calf and yearling herds in Northern California and Nevada, Spencer brings years of ranch management experience to the business. Abbey and Spencer raise and sell holistically managed, grass-fed beef from their family’s certified organic ranch, Springs Ranch. The mission of the Jefferson Center is to empower communities through ecological regeneration. Contact Spencer or Abbey to discuss Holistic Management consulting opportunities.