Posts Tagged ‘business plan’

This week I’m attending a Transition Assistance Program class, a program sponsored and presented by the Department of Labor with the intention of ensuring a successful transition from military service to civilian employment for servicemembers leaving active duty.

We’re actually required to go through this training, and are encouraged to attend at least a year before separation, but you can go earlier.  Many people put it off until they’re within 6 – 8 months of retiring from the service, staring their transition right in the face.  I’ve got 19 months left.  Quite a difference, and a decided advantage, in many respects.  I’ve always heard people say they wished they’d gone to this transition seminar earlier, that the information would have done them more good had they had more time to do something with it before their exit date.  So I’m going now, and it’s a good thing.

The curriculum covers a lot of territory, including an in-depth discussion of VA benefits and retirement planning; but it’s mainly a crash course in How to Find a Job in The Civilian World.   Personal skills assessment, interview and networking techniques, and resume writing are the main focus. 

I’m an anomaly in this class, the only attendee that is not planning on going to work for someone else when they retire.  This surprised me a little bit, but I’m getting used to being the oddball.  Agrarians among warriors are few. 

As we went around the room introducing ourselves the first day, everyone was asked to give a brief description of what type of job they are doing now, as military professionals, and what career field they intend to transition to as civilians.  Nearly all of this group of soon-to-be retired senior officers and senior enlisted folks mentioned looking for jobs in the Defense Industry, as contractors or civil service employees, working at the senior executive level. 

When it came my turn, I got a lot of smiles when I told them I was going to be a farmer, starting my own pastured livestock farm business.  I didn’t elaborate, I didn’t tell them that along with all the other myriad enterprises that will eventually comprise Bear and Thistle Farm, this will be my life’s work.  Just kept it simple and businesslike.

As the class progressed, I realized that all the information on resume writing and how to dress for and do well at an job interview was not specifically useful to me, at least not without a little filtering.  So I took the suggestions and applied them to the kinds of interviews and networking I’ll be doing:  meeting with loan officers for business financing, contacting potential customers, and building relationships with suppliers, fellow farmers, and other professionals. 

Another useful concept I garnered from this training was something called an informational interview.  In job search lingo, this is a technique used to gain knowledge of and establish contact with a company, under the rubrik of conducting “research,” without appearing to be overtly looking for employment.   The idea is to get a 20-minute interview to learn about the industry and company without pressuring the person for employment, all the while building a relationship and getting a non-threatening foot in the door.  I see the potential to use this technique doing market research and establishing networks and liaisons with fellow farmers, as I continue to craft my business plan.

Yesterday we prepared our “30-second commercial” which is another term for an “elevator speech,” that verbal snapshot anyone trying to connect in business will have at the ready should an opportunity for networking arise.  Of course the outline in the workbook was built on questions related to someone trying to get a job, introducing themselves and their experiences and strengths to a potential employer, whereas mine will introduce my farm enterprise to potential customers and other interested persons.

Speaking of interviews, I had the pleasure of doing a phone interview a week ago about my farm plans with Sylvia Burgos Toftness, an Acres USA grazing school classmate who is also starting a grass-fed grazing operation with her husband in Wisconsin.  Sylvia is combining her talents and long experience as a communications professional with a love of food and a passion for grass-based farming to foster a network of like-minded people through her website and blog, Bronx to Barn.  Listen to the podcast of our conversation here.

Like I said at the end of our interview, I’m thankful for the lead time I have, these 19 months before the big moving truck comes to take me and my tools and things out to Kentucky, to start this farming in earnest.  I have a lot of work and planning to do, and much to learn.  But the transition from warrior to farmer has definitely begun.


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I must get better at blogging in the present; September’s fence-building trip was ages ago, and I’m still not done writing about it, but there are other things Farm-related that are newsworthy.  Which is the whole point of keeping this blog, so we’re moving on.

You’ll hear about the Big Pencil Sharpener another time, then.

We had a six-month extension to file our taxes this year because of my deployment, and so October was all about sorting through receipts and filling out my Form F, accompanied by more research and reading of tax law relating to sole proprietorships and farm businesses.  Lots of reading.  And finally, the light went on.  Like smelling the proverbial cup of coffee, I got a strong whiff of exactly what I need to do in my particular situation, which is to take concrete actions toward making my farm business a reality.

So, I’m wrapping up an eight-week online course on Writing a Successful Business Plan, and although The Plan is a long way from actually being written, I have the tools and skills I need to write it,  know what research needs done and what needs to be included in it.  It’s a daunting task but, broken down into separate elements, quite doable.  And so I’ve begun.  I’ll share bits and pieces here, as I draft my mission statement and drill down into the details of setting up a grass-fed livestock enterprise.

I also took a huge leap and booked arrangements to attend the Acres U.S.A. Farm Conference in St. Paul, MN.  I fly out on Monday, to attend a two-day intensive pre-conference workshop on livestock systems entitled “Full-Circle Grazing Managment – Cow, Soil, Management, Grass”.   Learning from and meeting experts like Jerry Brunetti, Gearld Fry, Greg Judy, Neal Kinsey and all the rest will be a life-changing experience, I’m sure, along with the opportunity to meet like-minded farmers in all stages of production. 

Should be an amazing week, and I’ll try to journal it here as it unfolds.


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