COMMENT: Spanning some 55 years of a very active business life and with a lot of interaction with the rural and public sectors, it is clear there are some very obvious maxims, or points that just keep cropping up, and we keep repeating the same mistakes, writes Don Fraser.

Some of you may have heard all this before, but I understand we need to hear things about five times before it sinks in. For some of us it is even more.

1. Build resilience in yourself, your family and your team

Resilience is a tough one to grasp because how do you actually get the paradigm shift not to give up and say it is too hard? How do you get those around you to learn resilience and make it work?


Mr Google defines it as "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty or toughness.

There are many examples here, but broken relationships are an easy one to understand. Do you wallow in self pity or get up and run again? An extreme example is bankruptcy. It is tough and hard but many get up and go again, but many do not. Kids playing sport can fall over and hurt themselves. Don't rush up to them and try to take away "their" hurt, get them up and going again – build resilience.

2. Turn back - the sooner the better

Made some bad decisions? The sooner you can accept the situation, stop the "rot" or the "leakage" and turn back, the better. Examples might include wrong investment decisions. Don't keep throwing good money after bad. Stop, turn around and go back. Accept you have made an error of judgement and learn from it.

3. Don't keep making the same mistakes as per point number two above

I see it all the time. People go into a venture, lose money, go out of it, then go back in for another go. Don't do it. You see poor employers, employ good people, ruining them through lack of management and understanding, kick them out, employ new people, just to go through the same process again and again.

Many dairy farmers fail right here. Employing staff is hard and takes a special skill. Don't have "revolving doors" in your business, (this is what we call changing staff all the time). I have observed that tough employers who really set out what they expect with clear boundaries have staff that love them and stay.

Listen to Jamie Mackay's interview with Don Fraser about his opinion piece in the audio below:

4. Financial security

Please, please, please focus on providing financial security in your relationship, business and yourself. We boys were taught to take risks and the girls taught to be careful. Overlay that on our adult life and we boys want to keep taking risks and scaring the heck out of our "be careful" partners. You have to compromise and both realise that you are in it together.


We also need to build some reserves. "Have some cash put away for a rainy day" they say. Avoid the temptation to live at the limit of your overdraft as it is unhealthy and annoys your banker. Plan early to have enough money to retire on because the pension is pretty skinny. You see people retiring with a debt free home (hopefully), driving a $3000 car and living out of their vegetable garden. It is not easy for them.

5. Avoid litigation

How many people do you see dashing off to their lawyers with simple, easy to solve issues? The best solicitor will tell you to go and sort it out.

- Compromise
- Give some ground
- Reduce your expectations
- Avoid trying to "teach them a lesson"
- Mediate
- Expect it to cost more

But sort it out. Don't litigate it.

6. Look after yourself and your health, as it is all you have

This is probably a whole story on its own, but there are a few basics and you see it repeated everywhere in magazines and the media.

- Exercise regularly
- Stay hydrated
- Eat sensibly
- Moderate alcohol intake
- Surround yourself with positive people
- If you feel something is not right, it isn't.

Recently a friend was getting all the obvious signs of heart trouble, pain in the chest, sore left arm, indigestion. Next thing he had a massive heart attack and only just survived. He is resilient however and has bounced right back.

- Everything in moderation.
- Listen to your body and have regular health checks and heed your doctor's advice.
- Take holidays and breaks. Get the heck out of it for three weeks annually to give your body and mind a good rest.

7. Think!

What do I mean here? Many people tear from one thing to the next. My old mum used to say to me "stop and think boy" and that is what I do – now. Look at a problem, think about it, sleep on it, and usually the solution is there.

I am known for being a dreamer, but after I have been thinking about life, its issues and problems, a solution often becomes obvious.

A strategy for staff who bring all of their problems to you to solve might be to ask them to think about it, come up with the three best solutions and choose one. Simple really.

Apparently there are three basic types of people:

a. Those who talk about themselves mainly, and others when they pause for breath.
b. Those who talk about things, like cars, cows, rugby, politics and so on.
c. And finally the third group, the thinkers who talk concepts, ideas and opportunities and unashamedly I sit right there.

I am not great at remembering stuff, I try not to talk about people and their problems, but boy, give me a bunch of ideas, concepts or problems and I am on fire thinking about solutions and opportunities.

8. Making Mistakes – if you have made a mistake - the quicker you admit to it the better.

Defending your position and trying to cover up is blatantly obvious to all those around you. We forget things, do things wrong and try to cover up our mistakes.


The sooner you accept it and admit it the faster you can get on with your life.

These are a few ideas that have confronted me and made me wake up.

- Build resilience,
- If you are heading down the wrong path the sooner you turn around the better
- Avoid making the same mistake
- Aim for better financial security
- Avoid litigation
- Look after yourself
- Admit your mistakes
- And finally – THINK!

Disclaimer – These are the opinions of Don Fraser of Fraser Farm Finance. Any decisions made should not be based on this article alone and appropriate professional assistance should be sought. - Don Fraser is the Principal of Fraser Farm Finance and a consultant to the Farming Industry. Contact him on 0800 777 675 or 021 777 675. A disclosure document is available on request.