Hunting in a Farmer's World

February 02, 2017

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Everyone in business is either a Hunter or a Farmer. The working style that fits you best isn’t really a matter of choice, nor is it determined by your job description. It is ingrained by eons of cultural evolution.

Hunters are linear. It is their nature to focus on the kill. A hunter moves towards a goal, and on reaching it begins to immediately look for another objective to accomplish. A farmer’s work is cyclical, tracking the seasons from planting to harvest. Their evolutionary traits apply to an office environment as well as the outdoors.  

Ten thousand years ago we were all hunters. As mankind started farming and domesticating animals, nomadic tribes were able to settle in one place, build permanent living quarters and begin developing societies. Skilled workers could specialize in pottery or tool-making, and tribes began trading goods with each other.

Hunting kept people alive, but farming built civilizations. As villages grew into cities, the majority of their populations became involved in growing, transporting and distributing agricultural products.  

The cyclical nature of farming, tilling, sowing, tending and harvesting has morphed into the business cycle of planning, budgeting, implementation and measuring the results. Just as the populations of cities focused on farming, the majority of employees in any business are dedicated to production, along with managing and tracking the production of others.

For business owners and leaders, the challenge is to support the linear attitudes of a hunter in a business environment that concentrates on the cyclical tasks of farming. Computerization has given managers exponentially more data to track and measure, but management is by its nature farming, and management books promote farming methodologies.

Balanced scorecards, six sigma quality and ISO 9000 are valuable tools, but for the typical hunter, they pose a problem…they are boring.

Entrepreneurs spend millions of hours each year trying to master the intricacies of process and procedure without understanding why they are doomed to fail. They start to implement an initiative, but then become drawn to the “next big thing,” or simply lose interest in the effort and let things slide. They enjoy building new things, but don’t fare as well in managing them. Their inability to follow through makes them think of themselves as “bad” business people.

The real problem is letting dynamic, creative problem solvers waste time and energy trying to adopt a style that doesn’t suit them. How much more productive could your business be if everyone, including you, worked only on things they enjoyed?

The stereotypical example is that of a top salesperson who is promoted to sales manager. The salesperson is a hunter. She enjoys working independently and “bringing the meat” of a closed deal. She has no inclination to oversee the work of others, prepare reports, or think about improving the sales process.

On the other hand, take the case of an excellent controller who has advanced to Chief Financial Officer. As a controller, he was focused on detail and deadlines. Faced with the prospective-looking duties of the CFO role, forecasting, projecting, and seeking new financial opportunities; he is lost. The mere fact that both positions involve financial skills doesn’t make them interchangeable.

Hunters have always needed farmers. They keep things together when the hunter is off chasing the next objective. Farmers depend on hunters to create new opportunities and develop a long-term vision. Both are necessary, and neither is nearly as effective without the other.

John F. Dini

John F. Dini is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs and Presidents of companies with over 11,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal advice to entrepreneurs. He is the author of three business books including Beating the Boomer Bust and 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business, now in its second edition. He is a serial entrepreneur, but prefers the term “chronically unemployable.” John holds a BS in accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University, and has six additional certifications in exit planning, business brokerage, behavioral analysis, medical practice management, facilitation and coaching. John writes numerous articles on small business topics for newspapers, magazines, and in his own blog at www.awakeat2oclock.com. He speaks frequently to business groups and national associations, and is a 15-year member of Jim Blasingame’s “Braintrust,” appearing regularly on “The Small Business Advocate,” a nationally syndicated radio program, as an expert in the issues of business ownership. His latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, has won recognition including “Best Business Book” at the New York Book Festival and the National Silver Medal for business books from the Independent Publishers’ Association.
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