Something that has always fascinated me about farmers, is how many areas you must be knowledgeable in to be successful. As a kid growing up on a farm in WI, I observed how my dad operated and excelled. He was and is still a constant learner. He enjoys seeking places where he is not the smartest person in the room. He loves to ask questions and he loves to listen. He is amazing at many things, but he knows the areas that are simply not his thing. On our farm, we never did any major machinery repairs. As a kid I felt as though my Dad could fix anything, but he knew his limits and where his time was best spent. For example, a welder he wasn’t, but we had access to an amazing one just 7 miles down the road. When I was in high school, he bought a welder, I think partially hoping I would take to it. I welded together an old gate once. The first time we used it to load cattle, it busted into pieces… guess welding wasn’t my thing either.
We started AgPerspective in 2003, and in 2004 the government made a change to a recently created crop insurance product. Being a learner myself and being young enough to not know I wasn’t supposed to waste time on anything new, I took the time to read the policy. After hours of study I deduced that this product was incredible, and the premium was too good to be true. However, there was one big problem. Without spending hours reading the policy, it was almost impossible to understand. And the indemnity equation was ridiculously complex. I thought to myself, “how in the world am I going to explain this to people in a way that will allow them to see the benefits and will cause them to take an entirely different approach to their crop insurance?” I was determined to create a spreadsheet to model this policy and to show a range of “what if scenarios.” Using some excel skills that a former manager had taught me, I whipped up a spreadsheet. My dad had been farming since the 70’s, and the only federal crop insurance policy he had ever bought was CAT. When I showed him this new product and the spreadsheet I created to illustrate it, he said, “this is a no brainer!” His insurance cost went from pennies per acre to over $20 per acre. Why? Because I was successfully able to make a very complex insurance product simple and easy for him to see its enormous benefits. Turns out, this spreadsheet worked very well in IL as well. I will never forget in 2005, when Northern IL experienced a major drought and corn prices struggled to get a $2 in front of them. That summer I went around to all my clients, spreadsheet in hand explaining to them again how their policy worked. I watched as their looks of despair turned into smiles. They understood what they had purchased and that it was going to be just fine. And it was.
Perhaps the most recognized speech in American History, The Gettysburg Address, was only two minutes long. Many people do not realize that Lincoln was not the keynote speaker of the day. I recently read a biography of Abraham Lincoln. In the book I found that Lincoln, not being entirely popular at the time, was the last speaker invited. The keynote speaker was a man by the name of Edward Everett. He spoke for two hours and eight minutes and that is precisely why you have likely never heard of him. Why have we all heard of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? Because he took an incredibly complex, divisive, and emotional situation and broke it down in a way people could understand and relate to. The day after Lincoln’s address, Mr. Everett wrote to him saying, “Permit me…to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
How we started, continues to be how we help farmers today. We work in the areas of crop insurance, grain marketing, and government programs. Our staff of 15+ spends hours each day studying and learning, so that we can explain things in a way that is simple and easy to understand. Our goal is to simplify your decision-making process and give you time to invest in other areas of your business and personal life.