Happy Anniversary to the Stockman Grass Farmer newspaper and Wired magazine — 65 years for the Stockman Grass Farmer this month and 20 years for Wired magazine in January (but issue 1.1.1 released this month for the iPad). At certain points in time for me, both of these publications provided me a fresh flow of new ideas, business and otherwise. I find this to be very helpful for business owners and in life — a constant flow of ideas helps me make sense of what’s happening in business and in the world around me. And often, it is the smaller, niche publications and blogs that provide the most thought-provoking and helpful source of ideas, thoughts, and inspiration.
In the early 1990’s as I was graduating from college with a plan to be a newspaper journalist, Wired magazine helped me make sense of the changes of the digital revolution and eventually choose to start an Internet company in 1995. For years, I saved each issue and referred back to them as everything at that time was so new, interesting, and full of possibility. Recently, I learned about the Stockman Grass Farmer newspaper reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and then attended two conferences hosted by the Editor, Allan Nation, in 2008 and 2009. What I found in Allan Nation is not only an expert in back-to-the-future grass farming style of cattle ranching, but a wise professor of common-sense business advice as he instructs farmers and ranchers in the art of business. I found myself taking notes and being inspired at his conferences and excited to read Allan’s column each month when his newspaper arrives in the mail.
Some tidbits from Allan:
“If you cannot change something, then feature it.”
“In highly profitable businesses, the product IS the marketing.” Basically, this is the same idea behind the power of viral Internet businesses. And importantly, people will NOT spread the idea of your product, even if they love it, if they are worried about the increased demand diminishing the product or hurting their ability to get it.
“Characteristics of High Profit Businesses: 1) Repeat customers, 2) Customers pay up-front (no receivables), 3) Customers come to you (no transportation costs), and 4) Word of mouth marketing.” Also sounds a lot like many of the excellent business models today in such things as software-as-a-service, but Allan delivered this message in trying to help ranchers figure out how to make a cattle ranch work better than just selling cattle to feedlots.
“There are only two proven successful business strategies: least-cost production and differentiation.” This is Allan bringing Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter’s strategy ideas to ranchers as he encourages them to build differentiation and higher willingness to pay into their products.
Allan’s story of his editorship of the Stockman Grass Farmer and its development is a business lesson itself as he tells his story of buying the newspaper as a 30-year-old without much due diligence, borrowing when he was “totally fearless about going in debt”, paying 22 percent interest to the bank on the money he borrowed, and learning hard lessons about how to make a business work. It is an American story at its core and Allan tells it at his business school for ranchers.
Today’s world is (and should be) a boon for small, niche publications and blogs that can provide value. If you have any blogs or publications or whatever that you think provides good information, please send them my way.