Honesty, the first step to change

Malcolm Mountford wrote an excellent article in the "Dairy Exporter" in July 2001. In that article his main thrust was the unwillingness of farmers to change what they did on the farm to make it go better.

Only one brave soul stood up at a conference and said it was him who didn't want to change so they kept doing the same thing and kept getting the same result. Sound familiar?

I have just written a philosophy on looking back at ourselves as a third person, or the "helicopter view". What do we see, how do others see us and what can we do better in every part of our life? As people we all want to avoid the reality or truth. We would rather hide than be shown up. We will tell little porkies to justify our actions.

I had someone who was working for me at the time and he was always at the dentist. Not so. He just didn't want to admit he wanted more personal freedom to do what he wanted to do when he wanted. He didn't like the commitment of coming and working for a big company.

We are taught to be dishonest by our parents. Santa, Tooth Fairies are just the beginning. It is probably true that testosterone driven males are more dishonest than the fairer sex. Avoiding reality and not facing up to impending disasters is also dishonest. If we know we are in financial trouble we need to admit it, sort it, and move ahead. We often cover up the mess, don't discuss it with our partners until all hell breaks loose. If we had been honest right from the start it wouldn't be so bad. We would have made some better decisions. The mess could have been avoided and more than that we would have got more help and support from our partners.

Being honest and facing up to the situation is always the best course of action. For some of us it is difficult to do. We procrastinate only to find it's ten times worse at the time.

Talking to bankers we find the common thread with people who are in financial trouble is their inability to be honest and face up to the situation. Sometimes people understate the bills. How many bills have you got unpaid? The reply might be about $20,000. The truth is they probably have about $50,000 with the mortgage repayment they are about to miss too.

As New Zealand agriculture goes into more difficult times it is going to be more important to be very honest. Honest about our debts, our level of debt, our income and our ability to service the debt and post sufficient net profit to feed the family.

Borrowing against substantial assets and equity may be a thing of the past and will be certainly much more difficult in the future. In the past banks have been happy to lend us money to prop up our businesses and pay the interest bill and feed the family but I understand that this is changing rapidly. Banks are now looking for businesses which will post a cash surplus sufficient to meet drawings.

In summary, being really honest can be difficult. It is difficult because we all want to have our own winnings or secrets in our heads. Being totally honest with our partners, our team, our industry and our bankers comes highly recommended. We will not only function at a better level but we will feel lighter and happier not having to be so guarded in what we say and do.

Honesty is something we can practice at and improve on. And when, and only when, we are totally honest with ourselves will we really feel the elation that goes with life.


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