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My title this month is a play on “business planning,” a term that tends to pull up a number of different images and ideas that might be a distraction. I am thinking though about the importance of planning business, not just developing a business plan. Read more

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We have been enjoying quite a run of delightful spring weather in south-central Kansas, and it is a welcome change, even though our winter was not a historically rough one. There is something about the new greening in the country, the arrival of purple martens and tom turkeys gobbling up and down the creek bottom that tells me spring is here and summer won’t be far behind. While I don’t believe that “change is the only constant” in life, because that ignores and denies the eternal realit… Read more

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Editor’s note: Greg Wolf presents part two of a two-part series. "7 habits that can lead to success" appeared in the Jan. 26 issue. Read more

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I wasn’t entirely sure whether the word “nostalgia” was a good one or not, and after consulting the dictionary I’m still a bit baffled. I think I have some nostalgia, and I think there is a lot of it in our industry, but it seems to be a bit of a two-edged sword. Read more

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In an industry heavily reliant upon events outside of direct management control (weather and markets), successful ag operators nevertheless find ways to succeed year after year. One of those ways is directing attention to controlling profit margins. Read more

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I am being intentional about the title of this column and would like to conclude with why I am using the words “health care” in contrast with the more contemporary “healthcare.” I would like to touch first some considerations relating to the Affordable Care Act which towers over (and also permeates) the medical system today. These are a few of the items I learned from my colleagues within Kennedy and Coe, LLC, Beth Swanson and Tom Peebles, from a presentation of theirs titled “Healthcare… Read more

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One of the great mega trends of agriculture over the past couple of decades has been roughly the inverse of this topic—that is, consolidation. As production systems have become more sophisticated, coupled with more challenging margins and higher capital requirements, farm and ranch operations have grown larger and more specialized. Read more

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My family and I just returned from a quick trip to West Texas and enjoyed looking at their cotton crop. But that isn’t what prompted this column. Instead, I’ve been thinking about the old expression “high cotton.” This is a saying that is symbolic of being well-off, whether in terms of money, happiness or both, leading to the more complete expression, “We’ve been living in high cotton.” The expression is rooted back in the days of hand-picking cotton, where taller, more well-developed pl… Read more

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Work ethic—that somewhat ethereal concept that employers crave and parents try to cultivate, but all struggle to define and develop in others. And of course that is where it is usually needed! A solid work ethic is often associated with rural upbringing, immigrant communities, and “the good old days.” Appropriately or not, it is often disassociated with trust fund babies and, if we are honest, successive generations of family businesses. I thought it might be worth looking more closely a… Read more

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I am continuing this month sharing some material from my colleague Amy Shoemaker on the subject of leadership, since it is so relevant to agriculture and ag operations. She works out of Kennedy and Coe, LLC’s Loveland, Colo., office and is the director of our People Growth Strategies group. Shoemaker focuses on such areas as talent development, leadership, and management in her work. She again provided me some good ideas, and I’ve edited them into a format that will work for my column in… Read more

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For my column this month I have asked my colleague Amy Shoemaker for some ideas from her area of expertise that I could share with readers of the Journal. Amy works out of Kennedy and Coe, LLC’s Loveland, Colo., office and is the director of our People Growth Strategies group. She focuses on such areas as talent development, leadership, and management in her work. She provided me some good ideas and I’ve edited them for my column this month. These ideas fit the management of most farms a… Read more

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Well, it finally happened—after over two years of wrangling, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the new farm bill, dubbed the “Agriculture Act of 2014.” I asked my colleague Wayne Myers, who heads Kennedy and Coe’s Farm Program Services group, to share with me an overview of significant aspects of the new legislation. He has done so, and I am collaborating with him in editing what he provided me to best suit our readership and column space in the Journal. Read more

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There has been a lot of energy expended on the meaning of “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas,” with the former supposedly representing the slippery slope toward taking Christ out of Christmas. I’m sure there is too much commercialization of the Christmas season to best honor the birth of Jesus Christ, but I doubt the exchange of one phrase for the other amounts to a whole lot of difference. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has the definition of “holiday” as “holy day,” and the defini… Read more

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According to the Wichita Business Journal, there is likely not a challenge facing business leaders “as daunting and complicated as federal health care reform.” The publication recently pulled together a variety of experts on the subject for a panel discussion, and Kennedy and Coe, LLC’s Clinton Baker was among them. For our column this issue I’m going to share a few of the questions, followed by Clinton’s responses. The subject is immense and complex; it is my hope this helps provide mea… Read more

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It is all farm and ranch producers have ever known—filing taxes on a cash basis (rather than accrual) has allowed them to better match up tax liabilities with the inherent volatility of our industry. Recently, there has been a legislative proposal to significantly restrict this option for agricultural producers. Kennedy and Coe’s chief executive officer Jeff Wald of Loveland, Colo., has drafted a letter to relay some of the firm’s concerns to legislators. I am sharing a portion of his le… Read more

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Businesses that experience not only success but longevity are no accident. There are a number of qualities that characterize businesses that have remained successful over a long period of time, and their relationship with their people is vital. This subject is being addressed in a fairly generic way this month; however, the principles are relevant everywhere, and no less in farm and ranch operations, even though the fit sometimes seems less obvious than other industries. Read more

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Very soon, perhaps even before readers start into this column, my wife and I will welcome a new baby into our home. He or she will join four sisters and a brother, and a couple parents that are not quite as young and spry as when our firstborn arrived, but still just as eager. This experience brings a number of meditations my way, and while I won’t share them all here, I’ll share a few of them. Especially I’m thinking about some parallels between babies and family businesses, those in ag… Read more

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Agricultural policy might be boring if it weren’t so relevant—and too, those of us who have heard Barry Flinchbaugh take up the subject would never consider it boring. Flinchbaugh even makes the term “agricultural policy” itself interesting. I had him in an Agricultural Policy class years ago and have heard him give updates through the years at various ag conferences, always vividly enlightening the subject. Read more

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I have always enjoyed barns. We had a barn when I was growing up and I can’t imagine how many hours of enjoyment I spent there, perhaps especially in the haymow. It isn’t hard to evoke memories of the myriad sights, sounds and smells of that barn. I shot birds in it, raised calves in it, harvested pigeon eggs in it, sweated buckets in it, and attended new births in it, and that is just a sampling of events from memory. There were hay forts, there were rope swings, there were monstrous bu… Read more

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In agricultural economics, it has typically been taught that ag producers have four primary resources to work with: land, labor, capital, and management. That is a helpful list, but in reality we can consolidate those to just two—capital and management. Both land and labor are acquired with capital. There are other dimensions of the land resource that could be named as well, including organic matter and sunlight energy. But those are more inherent to the land resource, and again—land can… Read more

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Just two years after my wife, Ruby, and I were married, we moved from her home state of Ohio to Pratt, Kan., to take a job with Kennedy and Coe, LLC. Read more

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The title this month, and the definition of it, might at first glance seem too corporate for rural America, and certainly irrelevant for the businesses in agriculture found there. Internal controls are simply those policies and procedures in place within a company that have been designed to avoid and/or allow the detection of fraudulent activities within. But in fact, studies have shown that smaller companies have higher incidences of fraud than larger corporate organizations. The one th… Read more

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I talked to my colleague Dr. Hubert Brown about some current ideas with him that might be appropriate for a topic in this column. He not only obliged with an idea, but also some narrative, which I'll share in this column relating to a top-of-mind topic with him these days--dealing with negative attitudes in the workplace. It is a subject that needs little introduction because we've all experienced it. Certain behavioral styles have a greater propensity toward negativity, but that offers … Read more

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All planning involves uncertainty, and the first of any year is a pointed reminder of that. What lies ahead in this new year in terms of markets, weather and other factors in the business environment? Nobody knows, though we often make our best guesstimates. Furthermore, nobody really knows what might happen on the "inside" of a business either, even a business we know better than anyone else--our own. In both the external and internal business environments, there is a wide range of unce… Read more

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The end of one year and the beginning of the next is always a special time of reflection and anticipation, assuming those two states of mind haven't been crowded out through a stressful holiday season. I have been sentimental enough over the years that as I transition from one calendar year to another, I like to think about the bigger picture of transition that is going on in my life, and the fact that where I am today is just another step in a ongoing, changing journey. I've been a user… Read more

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Several years ago, Kennedy and Coe, LLC leaders documented in the firm's mission statement the words "to enhance the well-being of our people and the clients we serve." I say they were documented rather than developed because the essence of that mission had been alive throughout prior years, but it had never been captured in words in quite that way before. The heart of our firm's mission therefore is reaching and enhancing the "well-being" of people. I think the mention of both "our peop… Read more

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Four years ago Kennedy and Coe, LLC established a wellness initiative for those of us within the firm. That includes, among a number of other things, having a clinic come in and provide annual biometric screenings--physical statistics and blood work. Those screenings have been held in October each year, and I just received information back from my fifth biometric screening. My interest in them has grown each year, and now with the results of five straight in hand I created a simple sprea… Read more

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Sustainability is a word we have all seen quite often, and it has become a buzzword in recent years. By buzzword, I mean it is often highly charged with emotion, but usually with a meaning that is ambiguous, or at least variously defined. In practical terms, however, the term sustainability is all about continuity over time--over the years and through generations--maintaining (and usually, growing) whatever is it we are talking about. Beyond that definition, the subject about gets too bi… Read more

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The ongoing drought is becoming historic in its scope and impact. Even though in south-central Kansas we are not nearly as far behind our annual rainfall as we were a year ago, the effect of the drought seems to be as severe or more so, perhaps due to the cumulative impact and the accompanying heat this summer. My family and I don't have a large agricultural operation, but the drought has been impacting us too and while the scope is smaller, the dilemma is similar to that faced by other … Read more

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Included within the area of ag strategy is the subject of diversification. Every business--while "thinking in the future while acting in the present"--makes decisions (either explicitly or implicitly) to diversify, or not. Diversification, by definition, is a strategy of developing new products and/or markets. It involves a deliberate move away from a more narrow focus to one that is at least somewhat broader. In the corporate world, it is a strategy that can be regarded as either offens… Read more

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I like the definition of strategy put forth by my colleague Hubert Brown--"thinking in the future while acting in the present"--because it captures so well the essence of thinking and planning strategically. The word itself comes from the Latin word stratagem, which has military connotations of maneuvering and plotting future actions. As ag operations grow in size and complexity in the ongoing consolidation of the industry, strategic thinking and planning grows ever more urgent and imper… Read more

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The accounting function in any business has a useful purpose for tax reporting, and accounting records are sometimes used for lender reporting. But the highest value from accounting records comes from informing and then favorably impacting management decision-making. Read more

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Editor's note: This month, Greg Wolf is turning his column space over to Hubert Brown, Ph.D., Kennedy and Coe, LLC family business consultant. Read more

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I've alluded in past columns to the affinity my family has for hunting, and since my last column our fourth daughter has started shooting a new bow as well. She is likely a couple years away from deer hunting but intends to join the rest of us in our "back yard" chasing whitetails as soon as she is ready. We are in our 15th year living on a creek-bottom property, and I knew before moving here that it was a wonderful home for whitetails. I even took a nice buck with a muzzleloader a few d… Read more

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Many agricultural producers, if not most, have managed their operations at some point with borrowed capital. The communication level and relationship quality between those producers and their lenders has certainly varied widely, and we've known examples of those that went well, and those that didn't. Some have viewed relationships with lenders as somewhat of a necessary evil, colored with distrust and discomfort. Others view them positively and even as a vital business partnership. I ass… Read more

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I noticed recently that political candidates are arguing about capitalism, their respective contributions toward it and the failures of others. That got me thinking again about just what the definition of capitalism really is. Read more

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Regardless of what we are doing, I think everyone has some interest in success. Certainly no family business was established for the purpose of failing, although no two have quite the same definition of success and not all choices to close a business represent failure. But what are the basic elements of success? Is success a result of luck or of skill? Chance or opportunity? Read more

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November is at the top of my list of favorite months, for a number of different reasons. I was born on Thanksgiving morning (just a few years ago), and maybe that has given me a bias. The heart of hunting season comes in November as well, and there is likely a bias there as well. I thank President Abraham Lincoln, who signed a Proclamation of Thanksgiving on Oct. 3, 1963, giving us the holiday, and I regard the entire month of November as a wonderful time to reflect on some of life's dee… Read more

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I have been involved in a couple extended-family client meetings recently, and have been reminded once again of some of the distinctive attributes of the different generations in society today. Due to increasing life expectancies and career lengths, we have a situation today where for the first time there are often four different generations working together in the workplace. Therefore, quite a bit of research and training has gone into understanding these four generations and some of th… Read more

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Editor's note: Greg Wolf says that though he does not work with tax-related issues for his clients, he recognizes their importance and the need for short-term and long-term planning. He asked his colleague Brad Palen, a CPA and member of Kennedy and Coe, LLC, to provide some ideas for tax planning. Palen is our Growing Success guest columnist this month, and his column follows. Read more

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Earlier this month my family and I traveled to southern Mexico, a journey far off the beaten path of our lives. We visited and spent our time with a young family we know, most of it in his hometown village of Chinango. We flew into Oaxaca, which is only a couple hundred miles from Guatamala to the southeast, and also spent a couple days there. We came home with a wealth of wonderful experiences and memories that we'll surely never forget, and my daughters informed me that it was not the … Read more

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Wind towers evoke a certain sense of nostalgia to many of us who live in the High Plains, as we view them as a modern rendition of the windmills that have been providing power here for generations. We even have an old windmill tower where we live, but long before we arrived the old pump was replaced with an electric one; the tower today serves primarily as a support for a couple of wisteria vines. My family recently spent the evening with some friends who have a home-scale wind turbine, … Read more

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Agriculture, like most industries, has been reliant upon outside assistance for financing. I suppose that goes all the way back to the Homestead Act, which essentially allowed settlers to buy land on time from the government, though technically it was a non-cash transaction and involved only blood, sweat and tears in addition to the five-year term. Through my lifetime the outside financing was largely provided by lenders, whether community banks, the Farm Credit system, or the federal go… Read more

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I enjoyed traveling to Loveland, Colo., last week to spend some time in our office there. While we thirsted for a rain back in south-central Kansas, it rained off and on most of the two days I was in Colorado, so I tried to enjoy that and be happy for farmers in that area. I also went out to meet a couple clients in the area that I have known for several years, and another I had never met before. In our firm we love to get out to see clients and hear about what is happening in their busi… Read more

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A couple weeks ago I flew to Indiana to meet with a client there. We met to make some progress on the quality of managerial information they are generating out of their accounting system. It was a productive trip and a classic "rainy day" in southern Indiana. I told the farmer I wished I could take the rain home with me, and he quickly concurred that he wished I could too. Read more

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The subject of succession planning is a perpetual one in that all businesses with plans to continue will need to work through the challenges of transitioning people into new roles and responsibilities in the business. Well-planned succession can work relatively seamlessly and positively, while unplanned or poorly planned succession can lead to conflict, chaos, and even business failure. Larger businesses have more obvious needs for succession planning given the numbers of people involved… Read more

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Certain subjects are favorites of farmers and ranchers, and the price of land is one of them. I grew up on a diversified farm in northwest Kansas and I remember, with that peculiar memory of childhood, a land buyer walking with my dad on our farm. I don't remember the year but I'm guessing it was somewhere late in the 1970s. I do remember another number though--$1,000--which was tossed around as a potential value for all the land our family managed, approximately 25 percent of which was … Read more

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I plan to travel to Chicago for the Top Producer conference next week, and I'll be traveling home as this next issue of the Journal goes out. I have a presentation that I'm hoping to give there titled as this column is, and I thought I would share an overview of it here. Several years ago Stephen Covey wrote a best-selling book titled "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." This presentation is not patterned after that book, but nevertheless it is about fundamental habits. It is n… Read more

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Drawing toward the end of another calendar year draws us toward a term born in the world of accounting but used more broadly today. That is, we are getting ready to "close the books" on 2010. Technically, in a double-entry accounting system, this term describes the process of making journal entries to close the sales and expense accounts into a profit or loss account, which is then close to an equity capital account. Every time a transaction occurs, it has an impact on the equity capital… Read more