Data Driven. Member Focused

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Data Driven. Member Focused

by Wade Shafer       |       

As we close the books on fiscal year 2021 with $839,000 in operating profit and 13 consecutive years of profitable operations, I think back to tougher times. Linda Kesler, our CFO for the past 18 years, vividly remembers a time when she had to choose which bills to pay from month to month, as we didn’t have enough cash flow to cover all our obligations. What is behind our dramatic change in fortune? The simple answer: the demand for Simmental and Simmental derivatives has dramatically increased over the years. How dramatically? In his book chronicling our first 50 years, Simmental’s American Journey, Dr. Bob Hough states that Simmental is the only major breed to essentially be resurrected from the dead.

Though the direct reason for ASA’s financial success may be simple, there are a myriad of factors behind the extraordinary increase in demand. (An interesting analysis through the prism of the Harvard Business Review’s characteristics of successful businesses can be found in Chip Kemp’s article “The Defining Decade: The Modern Simmental Success Story.”) In reading Dr. Hough’s synopsis of our history, it is obvious that many people have been instrumental in our “resurrection.” He also makes it clear that our ability to work together for the common good of the commercial industry has been a critical component in our success. From my vantage point, which has been from multiple angles and now spans many years (I was first exposed to ASA and Simmental at age ten), there is no question that our success has gone hand in hand with our ability to work together for the betterment of the commercial industry — which, fortunately, is in keeping with the vision of our founding fathers.  

In the spirit of working together toward common good, the year started with the board and staff determined to leverage our good fortune to help our membership and community soften the blow of Covid. Our then vice-chairman, Randy Moody, suggested that we donate money toward helping the community ASA has resided in for 53 years. Chip Kemp suggested that we provide rebates to our members based on the business they did with us the previous year. Both suggestions received unanimous board approval. The outcome was that our members saved $219,000 and ASA supported financially (and ASA employees participated in) a community food drive where thousands of pounds of potatoes and hamburger were distributed to locals in the Gallatin Mall parking lot. (As a side note, though it was a rough patch for our industry, we got a lot for our money in the food drive, as beef was underpriced in May of 2020.)

Evidence of working toward common good continued throughout the year. At ASA, all ideas/suggestions are brought forth for board consideration through our committees. In my opinion, this year had our committee chairs and staff liaisons working together as effectively as ever. Further, though we only had a single face-to-face meeting, I heard from many trustees that it was the most productive meeting they had ever attended. As you will also see from the committee reports to follow, committees were active and productive. Besides new resolutions being passed, previously passed resolutions were modified. Conventional wisdom often views the need for refinement to be a shortcoming — rationalizing that the board did not adequately do their job in the first place. In my view, the willingness to refine previous decisions is a positive characteristic of a governing body — an acknowledgement that circumstances and/or insight often change over time and the willingness to address that fact is a strength. 

Besides shepherding new ideas through committees, trustees are charged with working with staff to monitor ongoing functions that, typically, have resulted from previous resolutions and directives. To scrutinize ASA functions, we have established a process in which we leverage a professional facilitator (former ASA chairman Tim Smith) to lead trustees and staff in an annual overview of our business. This year, that process occurred at our April meeting and the unanimous consensus of the board is that ASA was functioning well in meeting the needs of our diverse membership.

In closing, as I get older (and I’d like to think wiser) I find myself appreciating things in life I tended to take for granted in my younger years. I know we’ve all had trying times — and the last year was particularly difficult for many. That said, I think having a sense of gratitude for the many good things in our lives serves us well.

If you haven’t read Dr. Jackie Atkins’s article on gratitude in the early fall SimTalk, you should. The following is an excerpt that couldn’t be truer: “I think most of you in this business are in it because you love cattle. You get to raise your family learning about animals, mother nature, and building a work ethic while providing food, water, medical attention, or other needs for your cattle. Your headquarters are in the great outdoors, and you tend your land with just as much care as you do your animals. You are a key component to providing healthy and nutritious protein to consumers. There is much to be grateful for in this way of life.”

Amen, Jackie!

Take care,


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