Business Lessons Learned from Lambing

\"FergusonWe all have our passions – what is yours? What is it that brings a smile, creates energy, momentum and a drive to overcome obstacles?  For me it is Ferguson Farm and my alter ego Farmer Ferguson; I expect that we all share the same challenge – finding the time, space and opportunity to indulge in our passion.

Fortunately there are parts of my passion that mean that time HAS to be found, and if you have seen Adam’s Farm or Lambing Live, or indeed driven anywhere in the countryside recently, there are small fluffy bundles of white cuteness gambolling in a field near you!  For me, like so many other Farmers (I love saying that J) it is lambing time.  Ferguson Farm has ideas above its station and in reality is just a small 2 acre field, an old stable block/lambing shed, 5 hives of bees and a chicken coop in the sky (that is another story!)  But you have to start somewhere, all dreams have humble beginnings and mine doesn’t get much more humble.

I have had my sheep just over 18 months now and this is my second season lambing – this year, 3 ewes were ‘theoretically’ pregnant by my Ram Billy and due on Maundy Thursday, Wednesday 30th and May Day (the 1st).  A little spread out, but better than the 2 weeks of sleep deprivation that ensued last year.  This brings me to insight number 1 – following your passion costs!!!  In my experience this is not just a financial cost (I think I would need to charge about £500 a leg of lamb if I wanted to recoup my investmentL) but more importantly an emotional and physical cost of following through.  I am a big believer that nothing comes for free in this world and I am reminded of the story of Mr Honda.  His mantra was – work out what your vision / dream is, work out what it will cost (in every facet), decide whether you are prepared to pay that cost, and if you are, make it happen!  Simple, but highly impactful and it has stuck with me.\"Lambs

So I am now smiling the other side of lambing with a healthy tally of :- a single ram lamb, a single gimmer (technical sheep talk for female) and a set of ram twins; a return of 1.33 which will not set the farming world alight!


So what else have I learned that I think is pertinent to the world of business and the work I do with my clients for Kili Consulting?

  • Preparation and planning are everything – how often do we hear this but how often are we left wanting when we have failed to prep properly for whatever reason.  Whether this is for a transformation, a project, a meeting or a phone call, being clear on the outcomes and ensuring that you have everything you think you need is crucial to success.  For Farmer Ferguson we had mixed results – I was ready for the first arrival with pen cleaned out and all accoutrements ready and to hand.  I was caught short with the next two L – fortunately no harm done.
  • Dealing with uncertainty – why was I caught short with my planning and preparation? Because nature, like the world of business, has a habit of changing the rules or springing surprises.  You can plan and you can prepare, but you have to have the comfort and confidence to decisively deal with uncertainty, as a leader create clarity in the face ambiguity.  So when I turned up to find the twins on the floor wet and yellow a day earlier than anticipated, I had to take action!
  • Stretching, growing and learning as you go – I am passionate about developing new capabilities and this has been one of the most rewarding aspects of Ferguson Farm.  I have learnt so much and I embrace the fact that I will have to continue to do so.  I went on a lambing course the day before I started lambing last year – JIT indeed, but it was effective.  However, at 3am a few days later whilst trying to pull a lamb from its mother in the freezing cold with no help, guidance or assistance, I was as far from my comfort zone as I can remember ever being, genuinely stressed, anxious and desperate!  We all survived and I have gained confidence from the experience and learnings from the inevitable mistakes I have made.
  • Seek help, embrace and learn from others – this is probably one of my biggest personal and professional weaknesses but Farmer Ferguson seems to be adept at recognising he knows “now’t about ow’t” and asks for help all the time.  It has been liberating and really powerful to seek guidance from all sorts of people, surrender having to know best and believe that people really do want to help. From Andy up the road helping me castrate the ram lambs, to my elder daughter Alice using her little hands to pull out a lamb that was struggling.
  • Keep focussed on what you are trying to be / achieve – I have had my dream for a few years now and it has taken a while to create the humble beginnings I have managed to assemble thus far.  I try to amplify my successes and connect as often as I can with my higher purpose in order to sustain the energy required to continue to pursue my aspirations. I read Farmers Guardian, I watch the way professionals go about their business and I draw down strength of conviction.

\"IMG_1661\"I passionately believe that life is too short not to be the best that you want to be, this includes fulfilling your ability in your role and satisfying your aspirations whatever they may be!  If you haven’t already done so, allow yourself to clarify your passion and build your dream, try hard to align it with your job and your career where you can and pursue it relentlessly!  To quote Mae West – “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!”



6 responses to “Business Lessons Learned from Lambing”

  1. A plea for the passionate

    It is obvious that these are the words of a driven, passionate man.

    But one thing has been puzzling me. I, like you mention in your previous blog, am reading Divergent and am intrigued by factions. To be passionate you probably need a smattering of all the factions, including the new faction of the Additional. You need to be brave to follow your dream and be candid enough to speak the truth about how you feel (passion doesn’t do beating about the bush). You need to do your research (Farmers Guardian, Farming Today, every passion has a useful source of info) and often have to trust in others who have trodden the path before. I’m sure, whatever the passion you have to make tough decisions in pursuit of your goal (get rid of that hen that doesn’t lay or the cow that doesn’t calve). But where, or where, does Abnegation fit? Can you be selfless and passionate?

    I think about the men I know who have a passion. Well they probably share several but the one that can be spoken of here is football. And they pursue it relentlessly – to the exclusion of all else. The family meals that have to be timed around the ending of the match, that holiday that has to be cut short so a match can be attended, the holiday destination that is chosen to coincide with that away game and the season ticket/Sky subscription that has to be bought at the expense of the school fees.

    I have a partner who has a passion (fortunately not football) and there have been times where pursing that passion has been to the detriment of family. However, with some thought and attention, he continues to pursue that passion but with additional support of the family and now has infected others with his passion too!!!! That’s what I call a Win/Win situation!

    So if you have an ounce of Abnegation in your body and you share your bedroom or your boardroom with others – have a care, spare a thought once in a while for the impact that your passion has on the others that share your life, be they lovers or colleagues or friends. You can, if you want to, make your passions work together!

  2. Paul Nesbit avatar
    Paul Nesbit

    Had to laugh Richard, having just spent week of helping a friend get some sleep whilst I covered the lambing on his farm. Fortunately no real emergencies and managed 5 lambs on my first night and unsupervised.
    ‘Working’ between 2:00 and 7:00am each night brought a different perspective; the solitude and the cold, with the mists rolling into the barn as the light started to lift, certainly different to my normal working environment.
    Helping a mate for 5 nights brought an unexpected bonus. It brought a forced time out to enable me to reflect and decide on my objectives and priorities for the forthcoming year. It was amazing how such an environment managed to stimulate both, creativity and energy, even with a distinct lack of sleep.
    I have already booked my works experience week for next year.

    1. Richard avatar

      I think that is a wonderful insight Paul – doing something ‘different’ really does jolt us into new thoughts, ideas and patterns! Plus – what a bonus I have found another shepherd 🙂

  3. Lesley avatar

    There are many wonderful opportunities to enjoy watching/learning from people in pursuit of their “passion”. What is heartbreaking, is the person who cannot identify their passion to follow and ambles through life knowing they haven’t found it, despite any efforts they have made to find a greater goal. Identifying your passion can be the hardest hurdle. Once there is a glimmer, the fire can be fanned. Before that stage, life can be really tough. Thoughts?

    1. Richard avatar

      Great comment Lesley – is that they can’t find it or is it that they just don’t have the confidence, self interest or place sufficient importance on bringing it to life? Anon (below) commented on pursuing a passion “to the exclusion of all else” – this requires selfishness? I know that I am taking time away stuff we could do as a family to go off and sort the sheep.

  4. I love the lesson ‘if in doubt ask’ it takes real humility and inner confidence to ask for help – a lesson for us all. Glad to see this years lambs are all fit and well. Congratulations!

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