Positive Peer Pressure

At Top Producer Seminar, (from left) Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M economist; Tim Schaefer of Ag Performance Roundtables; Lance Woodbury, family business consultant; and Ohio farmer Les Imboden discussed the benefits of peer advisory groups.

Peer advisory groups offer accountability, support and a place to learn

By Anna-Lisa Giannini

The need to get better faster is accelerating, says Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M economist. One way to put your farm operation on the fast track to success and growth is to join a peer advisory group. These networks are made up of a handful of producers from different regions and different product niches who gather a few times a year to discuss the ins and outs of the farming business.

According to Tim Schaefer of Ag Performance Roundtables, farmers who participate in a peer advisory group benefit from the accountability of the group members."There is positive peer pressure that comes out of a good group," he says.

Ohio farmer Les Imboden, who is involved in a peer group, says the pressure comes in two ways: "There’s peer pressure and there is pressure from the facilitator. It’s a structured environment that forces members to focus and participate."

Though the members’ hometowns and operations differ, a peer network can serve as the kind of support group that’s hard to find elsewhere. "It gives us a chance to kick the tires on numerous matters in a confidential way," Imboden says.

In Imboden’s group, members don’t talk about how to increase corn yields or machinery technology. "It’s about human resource issues, PR issues and how to find that next 1,000 acres," he says.

That is important, according to Schaefer, who says that producers have to be good resource managers. "You have to think like executives and act like executives," he adds.

While participating in a group has a monetary cost, Klinefelter says, the real cost is time. Imboden says the key is for all members to have "skin in the game." He says that producers who are paying to be involved in a group are committed to making the most of it. "I paid extra to bring my banker and my son, and the return on my investment was huge."