Everything I know about Business Development I Learned on the Farm before I could Drive a Tractor

Imagine a mid-morning barnyard with an early June breeze, barely rustling dust. Tractors, animals, and farm hands flow like a hastily planned orchestra.

Then there’s Grampy and the boy.

They put me with gramps to learn about farming and him with me to ease into retirement.

It took until my 20s to realize I learned far more than farming.

It took being a software developer in a VC-backed Dot Com (GoFish.com) to realize Grampy was a sales and marketing genius.

eric reynolds maine dairy farm

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And. Farming is the original Business Development operation

We toured the state of Maine in his ’72 Pontiac Bonneville (with 327 lb doors),

speaking with consumers and business owners.

Visiting farm conventions, groups, and meet-ups. And hittin the livestock auctions.

I learned a few lessons.

The Farm Actively Sought B2C and B2B Opportunities

Gramps returned from WWII with the responsibility of producing and selling milk.

That’s Biz Dev (lead generation, client acquisition.) Getting attention, having a conversation, then pitching. You probably have to follow up. People are busy. Got things on their mind.

Returning from WWII in 1945, he had to find milk buyers. People or businesses. It didn’t end until the cows were sold.

The farm continues to produce other products to this day.

Growing up, I saw my family sell vegetables, milk, wood, Christmas trees, and more. Both to consumers and local businesses.

It all starts with a contact. A lead generation if you’d want a name.

Simple act humans learn early.

Farmers are the original Business Developers.

Gramps Engaged Visiting Sales Reps

Farm vendors would visit throughout the summer to pitch, follow up, or just check in.

Gramps would engage with curious questions about emerging Agri tech and trends.

At the time, a 10-year-old me wanted him to continue our work. He just gabbed and gabbed.

Again, took till my 20s to realize what he was doing.

  • Networking

  • Gaining industry knowledge

  • Reviewing his strategy against benchmarks

He didn’t turn them away. Of course, they’d pitch him. He’d look ’em in the eye and decline 99 times out of 100. They’d part as friends until the next visit.

Know the industry.

The Farm Sought Local Partnerships

The farm would share knowledge, equipment, and other resources with other local farms.

We visited farms and toured operations.

He was gaining insight and networking. This can be a joint venture, partnership, or collaboration.

When I could drive tractors, at 12, I would go to a local farm to borrow their seeder. Spent many hours in a tractor seat.

We Attended farm conventions, groups, and meet-ups

We had a farm conference named “Maine Farm Days.” Packed with vendors, suppliers, and service providers. A business developer’s dream. Probably still going on.

Farmers, vendors, suppliers, and service providers like guys who trimmed cow hooves.

Veterinarians, livestock handlers, and transportation companies. You name it; the company type was selling something there.

The coolest part for me was being able to sit in all the tractor seats. Big, dual-wheel machines with cabs.

Conference attendance is a common practice.

Finally, bought and sold livestock at auction

One of the oldest business development environments that exist.

Saving that for more posts because if you can survive the afternoon at a livestock auction, you’re a certified Biz Dev expert.

I treasure the time spent with Grampy. We also spent a summer milking cows, when I learned even more. Also saved for more posts.

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