Searching for Zombies

My last post was seven months ago. I think it is no coincidence that this time coincides with me signing up to study. While I only committed to one unit per teaching period, I found that the area that suffered most as I tried to slot in another thing was what matters most to me, my family. Something had to go, and that was working towards a degree. I think to a certain extent I took this on to simply prove to myself that I was competent enough to participate in tertiary study, and I suppose I have done that, even if it was only two first year units.

In mid-February, upon finishing my exam, I deferred (but intend to withdraw). The timing was perfect, as what followed in the next couple of months made it very clear to me how important it is to me to have time and be available. Between finding out our first grandchild was on the way, a difficult transition to uni for our daughter and my dad spending a month in hospital with pneumonia, it became obvious to me that we can’t do everything. Life is full of choices and my tolerance levels to stress might not be as high as others. We must do what is right for us. Goodbye Swinburne!

At a recent workshop I attended, facilitated by Inventium in Melbourne, I was struck by something that they suggested can be done in business to identify underperforming enterprises or projects. It’s all about identifying the zombies. Once identified you make the call as to whether to pivot (assess, tweak and point it in another direction), persevere (it just needs more time and resources) or kill (self-explanatory).

This year we started regular mid-month deliveries to Melbourne. It has had its positive moments, but I really feel that we are in a bit of a rut. Our lack of experience (and probably a bit of fatigue leading swiftly to feeling discouraged) sees no growth, or opening doors. Melbourne has been identified as a zombie. It isn’t being killed, but we are putting it on hold until we have a connection with a school so we can hopefully have a readymade tribe. This decision is made as the concept of linking farmers with schools to shorten the supply chain and to educate the next generation has been accepted as a project to further explored with advisory funding through the Farming Together Project. So, the time and effort currently going into quite unsuccessfully building a tribe Melbourne (we have a tiny tribe of greatly appreciated new customers but not enough for it to be a viable business venture), will be spent working on this project. A definite pivot!

We have a handful of farmers, a school principal, hopefully some council reps and an advisor and we hope to find the best way forward to make this a positive option for all stakeholders. The aim is for smaller scale farms to be viable, consumers buying knowing exactly the farmer they are supporting and the next generation having a greater opportunity to connect with farmers when they speak to their class. Who knows where this may lead. It may work, or once everything is brought together and assessed it may be found to be unworkable. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I daily wonder why I am so fixated by this thought. I consider throwing it all in and getting a part time job somewhere, surely there is some online option (open to offers). But I really feel like this idea is stuck in my head for a reason and it connects in perfectly with my ‘personal brand’ that I developed in the Wimmera Business Leaders Group last year, ‘For the Greater Good’ (http://wheatonsstore.com.au/for-the-greater-good/). This isn’t just about us and our farm. I want to make things better for farmers and whole rural communities. Maybe I’m mad, but you never know, sometimes the craziest ideas can work.

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