Farmer Jones was a good man and a good farmer. He was well liked in the community, and the people loved to buy the vegetables he produced. He also had one great milk cow named Bessie.
Bessie produced the finest milk in the land, but Farmer Jones never took her milk to market. You see, if Farmer Jones had one shortcoming it would be his love for the milk Bessie produced. He would drink every drop Bessie made.
Farmer Jones’ love for Bessie’s milk caused him to make a very bad decision.
He would never take any of Bessie’s milk to market to exchange it for hay and the other things Bessie needed to thrive. He just loved the milk too much to give any of it away.
Over time Farmer Jones’ decision began to show in Bessie’s health. She was getting skinnier and skinnier by the day. Farmer Jones noticed this and he would talk so sweetly to Bessie. He’d tell her what fine milk she produced and that she would be just fine.
But, he could never force himself to give up some of her milk in exchange for what Bessie needed.
It was a sad day when Farmer Jones went out to collect Bessie’s milk and saw she had passed away in the night. No milk, no Bessie. Farmer Jones was devastated. To buy another cow as good as Bessie would cost far more than he could pay. He was stuck.
Farmer Jones’ plight could have been avoided if he would have given up even a little of her milk and invested in Bessie. But he couldn’t force himself to do it. The milk was too good. He thought he needed every drop.
A lot of leaders treat their organizations the same way Farmer Jones treated Bessie. They love the milk the business produces and just can’t get enough. They tell their people what a great job they are doing and encourage them to keep pushing, but they fail to take some of their milk to market and exchange it for what their people need.
They under-invest. Just like Farmer Jones, leaders can underinvest for a long time and get away with it. Leaders often recognize the organization is not as healthy as it should be, but it is still producing milk. So, everything must be OK, or at least good enough.
If things were too bad the milk would dry up – right?
No. By the time you notice the milk drying up it is likely too late. The cost of bringing the organization back is too high. Your competition has passed you and you can’t attract good people. Your organization might die. Just like Bessie.
Far too many organizations have ceased to exist for the same reason Farmer Jones lost Bessie.
Are you investing in your organization and your people or just enjoying the milk? Investing in your team does not have to be expensive. Next week we’ll look at some lower cost investment options.
Curt Fowler is an organizational growth expert and President of Fowler & Company, a business advisory firm dedicated to helping leaders create and achieve a compelling vision for their organization. He has an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA, and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and four children.
Have a business growth topic or question you’d like him to cover? Send suggestions to cfowler [at] valuesdrivenresults.com.
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