Sheahan: Farmers can turn change into advantage

Dairy Business Association
Dairy Business Association

GREEN BAY – Peter Sheahan is an expert when it comes to taking advantage of business trends and new market opportunities.

Those opportunities are available even when times are uncertain, and maybe even more so, the best-selling author and global consultant to companies like Microsoft and Goldman Sachs insists.

Sheahan encouraged attendees at the Dairy Business Association’s virtual Dairy Strong conference to take action to achieve their business goals in today’s world of market volatility, distrust among customers and ever-changing requirements.

"What we believe and what we think are the first things to change if we want to grow in uncertain times, turn challenges into opportunity and change into a competitive advantage," Sheahan said. 

Sheahan, who hails from Australia and attended a boarding school on a dairy farm there, provided plenty of direction for farm owners, starting with understanding reality.

"Work from reality in order to know how to proceed and take ownership rather than place blame," he said. "Any energy to recreate the past is wasted, so work to build on the strength of dairy instead of the past. This creates a promotion mindset rather than a prevention mindset."

As farmers do this, Sheahan suggested they watch out for pitfalls. First, circular conversations are a waste of time because talking is not doing, he said. Business leaders must implement radical changes to solve problems. If they spend too much time in meetings and conversations, no changes are actually made.

Second, he said that during conversations about challenges in the industry, it’s easy to give words to assumptions, making them seem more real. This blinds leaders to opportunities because their brains have already closed off avenues for innovative thinking. There is no room for new ideas because assumptions were already made and voiced. 

Finally, he said don’t put control of the situation on anybody else. As business leaders, farmers must step up to the plate and take charge.

Peter Sheahan is an Australian businessman, consultant and author with experience in dairy farming.

Sheahan advised his viewers to be aware of their states of mind as they proceed in their businesses. Being in a state of awareness of one’s situation is very different than being in a state of ownership of that situation, he said. The same applies to a state of ambition and moving forward.

"You can choose to either wait for the market to force change upon you (which he called a burning platform) or you can put tension on your own business from a place of desire (burning ambition)," he said.

During a meeting in New York City with several large-scale bankers and Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO (who has since stepped down from his position), Sheahan learned of two important questions for business leaders: Where is the consumer going? How do we beat them there? At least one business leader must genuinely innovate to create more space for growth, he said.

"As business leaders, we must lead the consumer and the community to the future," he said. "Then we move toward disruption and learn from there. Let the trigger of disruption lead you to innovation."

To move forward successfully, dairy farmers should also be willing to innovate right alongside their employees, Sheahan said. They should be willing to take risks and make moves in their businesses themselves before ever expecting their employees to do these things or before they’re forced to do so by market demands.

"Don’t just stick to your knitting and never take risks," he said.