A Hail Mary in dairy
It's almost the end of the game, you've played hard and given your all, but despite your team's best effort, the numbers are stacked against you and you're almost out of time. What do you do? Walk off the field in defeat, content with the fact that you tried? Or, do you give it one last shot, playing right up until there's no time left on the clock?
That's right, you go for it.
In football, a "Hail Mary pass" refers to a very long forward pass, made in desperation with only a small chance of success. Green Bay Packer fans know a little something about the Hail Mary, having been on both ends of this last ditch play, most recently celebrating a record breaking victory over the Detroit Lions this past December, after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed the longest Hail Mary in the history of the league.
Sometimes in football and sometimes in business, you've got to put it all on the line.
In the dairy business, some producers have found Wisconsin native, Pauly Paul, a dairy management consultant, to be the Hail Mary capable of saving their farm from looming defeat. Producers whose operations are in financial trouble are finding Mr. Paul's coaching to be the one last shot they've got at saving their livelihood.
Farming isn't easy. Anyone who works in production agriculture knows that. On any given day, there's considerable physical labor to be done, countless issues to mind, not to mention uncontrollable variables constantly affecting the business, like milk prices and weather. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, despite your team's best effort, the numbers are stacked against you and it seems financially impossible to stay in business.
That's where Pauly Paul comes in. As the owner of Complete Management Consulting, LLC, he works with dairy producers to improve operations, financial and otherwise, oftentimes making the difference between success and bankruptcy.
One of the challenges farms often face can be tied to family. Few industries in America are more familial than agriculture, and while that in itself is perhaps the industry's greatest source of strength — it can also be a principal weakness. When it comes to decision areas like management, head count and hierarchy, a choice that may be beneficial to business can negatively impact family members, creating the proverbial rock and a hard place. Difficulties are further augmented with issues such as sparring siblings, power grabs and overreliance on profits for personal use. It can be a risky path for any business.
Bringing in a management consultant can swiftly eliminate much of the burden placed on farm families. By taking the emotion out of decisions which are best for the operation (even when it alienates family members in the short term) Mr. Paul is able to successfully alter the trajectory of the business. That is, at times, the very crux of why he is called in the first place.
So who is Pauly Paul, and how did he become the person to call when your farm needs saving? With an upbringing and education steeped in dairy business, and the number of farms he's been able to positively impact, it seems this was Pauly's calling all along.
He grew up in New Holstein in a dairy family and would later attend Lakeshore Technical College where he received a degree in Dairy Herd Management. After college he spent about 15 years working as an AI technician, from there he went to managing dairies, where he gained experience in all facets of dairy production including human resources, finance, protocol development as well as hands-on labor. In 2008, he was offered an opportunity to go to work for a business specializing in dairy crisis management and he seemed to find his niche.
When milk prices crashed in 2009, a whole new clientele became in need of the services that Pauly had to offer. Eventually he decided to strike out on his own, and in 2014, he formed Complete Management Consulting, LLC. To date, he's successfully consulted on farms in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. He's been offered work in Washington, California and even Germany and India — though he has yet to take his business so far from home.
Taking on clients so far away would be challenging due to the amount of time Pauly commits to the farms he helps. For the first month or so of being on farm, he is there nearly every day. He works with every aspect of the operation, addressing issues such as herd health, vendor contacts, organization and human resources. He develops relationships with each member of the team, including veterinarians, lenders and nutritionists. As the farm becomes more efficient, he gradually backs off his involvement and usually has completed the transformation within two to three months, depending on herd size.
Pauly said the hardest part of his job is change. When he takes on a client, despite the huge step they've already taken, simply by asking for help, and although they are essentially are placing the reigns of their dairy business in Pauly's hands, it doesn't mean they are going to buy in and make the changes that he suggests before he earns their trust. He has to show them how changes, sometimes difficult, can impact their business and make the difference between success and failure. They have to see it for themselves, and even then change can be challenging for some people.
Some of the most common issues stem from labor inefficiencies. Dairies are either overstaffed or ineffectually staffed (or both). Inefficiencies can often appear to be a shortage of labor, and sometimes even manifest within the herd because sick cows get overstimulated — or worse, overmedicated — by employees looking to stay busy. Most clients find that once Pauly has helped to organize the division of labor and properly train employees, situations that once appeared to be a lack of labor force, turn into a capable core team.
Of course, there are times when employees are resentful of Pauly as an outside consultant, and are even more resistant to change than the clients he's hired by. Despite the occasional sabotage however, most laborers find that being properly trained and having efficient alignment of duties is less stressful in the long run than working in a disorganized operation.
Another common area where Pauly often finds improvements can be made is with drug protocols established by the veterinarians. If the costs are exorbitant, he starts by educating the producer on average per cow drug costs, and then identifying what factors may be causing them to be higher. It's not unusual for producers to express a desire to use less drugs, particularly in a time where scrutiny and the importance of consumer confidence have never been higher, but they simply do not know how. Rather than challenge veterinarians over drug protocols, Pauly works with the entire team to proactively improve heard health, thereby reducing the dependency on prescription products.
While his business started out primarily as crisis management, Pauly now finds — despite not having marketed his business — word of mouth referrals have really expanded his horizons. He now takes calls to consult on expansions, host training events and even intervene in the occasional family dispute or give guidance on specific issues such as mastitis or Somatic cell count. Many of his referrals come from other industry professionals such as lenders, farmers, nutritionists, sales representatives and veterinarians.
One specific area in which he's had success is receiverships — when a bank places a farm in the custodial responsibility of an independent receiver, whose goal is manage the business in such a way as to recoup as much of the unpaid loans as possible. While not a pleasant situation for any producer to be in, when there's a receiver in place who is as fair and knowledgeable as Pauly, there is greater chance the producer will be in a position to step back into ownership.
With all the positive impact he's been able to make and the increase in requests for his help — so much so that he's began hiring staff — he doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon. He enjoys being close to home, and his wife, a physician assistant and two daughters, ages 11 and 13, enjoy having him around, too. He says his favorite part of his business is that every day is a different adventure. Even challenging clients seem to be no match for his "can do" attitude.
In football, even with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, the Hail Mary is a long shot. When it comes to dairy management, if you're looking for a sure thing, Pauly Paul is the guy you want in the clutch.
For more information about Complete Management Consulting, LLC go to www.helpourfarm.com
ANIMART's staff writer, Shelli Manning, works to share the human interest side of individuals in production agriculture and communicate their passions which contribute to our unique American Story. She is the published author of Little Fish, as well as a motivational speaker on women's issues and an advocate for the reduction of domestic violence.