Monday, September 8, 2014

Everything I Know I Learned From a Farm Show

Okay, that might be a stretch, but if there is ever a time when Murphy’s Law prevails, it seems to be during a farm show (or likely any trade show for that matter; recreational, home or farm show, they all seem to unfold in similar fashion).

With 5 solid years of farm show organization, set-up and tear-down under my belt, I transitioned into my current role at John Deere where still farm shows roll around twice a year. Undeniably, I enjoy these shows for the same reason I think farmers do, the social aspect. (I have been quoted more than once saying, "I LOVE the farm show!") In some ways, I also believe those 5 years on the ‘show circuit’ were character building; a right of passage even. 

When you’re the first one there in the morning, hauling in cases of water and bags of ice and the last one there in the evening, locking doors and picking up empty water bottles (why is the cup holder always the most inviting spot for trash when there is a can steps away?), you can’t help but earn some stripes. Though I sometimes questioned the value and wondered if anyone noticed these little details, I realize the importance of that role now. Even if I still tend to be the first to arrive and last to leave.

So, after pounding stakes for an afternoon, making last minute calls to track down a tractor, and testing my techy skills, here’s some quick reflection on what I’ve learned over the years; be it "at the show" or any other aspect of life, they seem to apply. 

1) Be prepared - Having the right tools literally means in this case, having the right physical tools in your toolbox. It seems there is always a need for a staple gun, a drill, an Allan key, zip ties or a Sharpie. Do you have the tools, are they organized so you can find them and be ready when you need them? And after 8 years, I’ve accepted my tool box will never have everything I need… I’m always learning and adding to it.  

2) You can never be too prepared - There will always be something last-last minute, so the more prepared you can be and the earlier, the better. It is never too soon to start planning, prepping, organizing, etc. The 24 hours before the show starts are never long enough.

3) Focus on what you can control - Farm shows are a team effort, and inevitably this means relying on others to get the work done. Delegation is good; you can’t do it all but it means you risk it not getting done the way you expect. You can try to prevent this by setting some expectations, but know it doesn’t always go as smooth as you’d hoped (or you maybe could’ve done), but getting frustrated or upset never solves the situation. Control your reaction and focus on what’s next. Things that can go wrong will so…

4) Don’t sweat the small stuff - People won’t notice if a product sign is missing, whether you forgot to book the carper or if a tractor just doesn’t show up. Sometimes things get missed or you just plain forget or run out of time. It’s never a big deal and likely, no one will ever notice except you.

5) Debrief, debrief, debrief - How many times have we ordered the same show furnishings at the last minute? Realized the day of set-up we’re missing flags, which we knew we could have ordered months ago? There is never enough time spent debriefing our successes and failures, reflecting on what we’ve learned and capturing that to improve in the future. 

If you're heading to the farm show in Woodstock this week, be sure to come visit, say hi and let me know what you think of the blog!

John Deere Canada booth at the 2014 Canada's Outdoor Farm Show

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