By Frank Lessiter, Chairman
From the February 2019 Lessiter Link newsletter
How Urgency & Learning on the Fly Get the Job Done
There's often an urge to over-think a new project, especially when it's a new endeavor. A lack of urgency can doom us, especially in today’s fast-changing markets.
With the best new projects, our staff usually doesn’t have the luxury of taking months to get up to speed. Based on several LM experiences, the best thing to do is to get on the phone, throw yourself into the project and get it done.
Here’s how we’ve made this concept work with several of our new learning experiences.
In 1972, I left my Chicago job as Editor of National Livestock Producer magazine to help launch No-Till Farmer. It was a move that brought our family back to At that point, I’d never been on a farm that was being no-tilled.
I not only had to quickly get schooled on the latest developments in row-crop agriculture, but also no-till — a subject lacking any real "go-to" media or other in-depth learning sources. Not to mention that I needed to satisfy a demanding readership with a 1st issue deadline only a few weeks away. So, how was it done?
I immediately got out of the office, visited no-tilled farms, went to several field days, called on suppliers and attended university conferences.
Before taking this job, it was decided that 5 of us would fly down to eastern Kentucky and southern Illinois to see no-till firsthand.
On my 1st day at work, I asked about the plane trip. When I was told we’d get to it in a few weeks, I said no … we had to do it now! We made the 3-day trip the following week, and I immediately learned from our farmer audience what no-till was all about. It still qualifies as one of my best learning experiences ever.
When we purchased AFJ in mid-January of 1992, our 3-person staff included Sue, Pam and myself. We immediately rehired Alice Musser as Advertising Manager and hired an associate editor right out of school.
On Alice’s 2nd day, we went to Louisville for the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium. Neither of us knew anything about the farrier market.
We brought the previous ad manager along from Massachusetts to introduce Alice to exhibitors. That turned out to be unnecessary, as the former ad manager was soon left behind while Alice moved ahead and just introduced herself to all the suppliers. She was eager to learn about this new market and knew the best way to do that was to meet as many folks as she could. No fear or trepidation, and she had never sold an ad before.
Another example of immediately "getting in gear" took place with the purchase of FE in 2004. Mike Lessiter led the way, which meant turning out the next issue in 3 weeks' time. Before the acquisition, he’d visited only one dealership. He got on the phone, quickly learned who the best farm equipment association contact was, immediately visited them in their offices in Ohio and came home with 3 stories out of that 1st trip.
Our first FE issue, mailed 3 weeks later, on time. Shortly after, Mike received a written note from the previous editor at Cygnus who said it was the best issue in years.
In 2010, we launched the Strip-Till Strategies electronic newsletter, followed by the National Strip- Tillage Conference in 2014 and STF in 2018.
At a meeting in 2009, we decided to move ahead, almost a year before the electronic newsletter launch. We could have talked ourselves into thinking we’d have a better product if we waited, but I’d wanted to start right away so someone else wouldn’t beat us to market. We kept that from happening by firmly placing our flag into the ground on this growing farm practice.
When we gave the “thumbs up” for this project in November of 2018, the idea was to launch the website in late spring and hold the first virtual National Cover Crop Summit in late August of 2019.
Instead, we launched the cover crop website in early February and are holding the free Internet Cover Crop Summit in March. Interest in cover crops is booming and there was no logical reason to put it off. And since NTF has been writing about cover crops for decades, there was no need for further delay — we could do it.
6. "Get in Gear"
This logic and urgency applies to every staffer who doesn't know enough about a new market, whether involved in marketing, digital, sales, art or another area. Instead of spending time worrying about what to do, just et on the phone and start asking questions! Nothing is better for learning than a real commitment.
Remember ... you can get away with asking dumb questions for the 1st 12 months of something new that you are involved in. After that, well ...
Charging ahead and getting out there is the quickest way to grasp the informational needs of a new audience. And you can bet our hustle and interest got noticed and appreciated by folks who were veterans in what were 4 new markets for our staff.