8 Great Takeaways From Michael Kerr’s NAFDMA Seminars

8 Great Takeaways From Michael Kerr’s NAFDMA Seminars

Michael Kerr FEATUREThe humorist and business consultant pushed farm marketers to not only make the farm fun for visitors, but for employees, too. He says that humor is the No. 1 motivator for creativity. I think he might be on to something, since it spurred me to jot down all sorts of ideas for my own job.


Here are eight smart ideas he shared that you, too, can use at your market today.

Idea 1: Give real job titles.

When you’re hiring minimum wage cashiers, it’s important for both you and them that you acknowledge what impact their job really has on the company. So why not do that through the job title? Name someone the Director of First Impressions, not a clerk or greeter.

Idea 2: Employees shape your image.

Your customers shape their impression of your business on the people they interact with. That means employees can make or break your reputation. So find ways to show they truly matter. He mentioned one firm that framed and hung employee’s kids’ artwork at the front of the business. Millions of similar ideas are just a brainstorm session away.

Idea 3: Leadership matters more than management.

It boils down to power vs. influence. If your vision of heading your team is everyone needs to fill out their time sheets correctly, that reports are always neat and on time, you might be missing the bigger picture. If you are passionate about your farm, share that passion. Kerr talked about a call center owner who would show up at midnight in roller blades and wearing a matador outfit, even though he was an introvert. He wanted employees to know that he cared about how there well being, even those working the graveyard shift in perhaps the most thankless job in the U.S.

Idea 4: Hire for attitude.

Although this advice has been around in the retail sector forever, Kerr offered an example of how to find the right people: Post an honest and humorous want ad. Be up front about what it’s like to work at your farm — yes, even the aching feet. But also mention the sore cheeks from smiling so often and how much fun the team has together.

Idea 5: Money sucks as a motivator for employees

People want to feel like their part of something important. Sure, grunt work comes with every job, but if they see that they are helping kids understand how food is grown, or that the farm helps bring the greater community together, that makes snapping the 639th armband on a squirming kid a little more bearable.

Idea 6: Ditch boring values and mission statements.

Like the want ads, ditch the usual mission statements and go with honest, humorous and conversational. Here’s one example he gave: We have a 100% jerk-free work environment. Who doesn’t want to work where they guarantee no one is a jerk? If that is one of your goals, however, you’ll need to step in when you see that kind of behavior and hold employees accountable when they get sour attitudes.

Idea 7: Short, oddly timed meetings are the most effective.

Too many meetings can not only waste time, they can kill any enthusiasm and energy your staff has for their jobs. Kerr advocates brief huddles each day, going over the key goals and no more. He also recommends setting the huddle at an odd time to emphasize it’s brevity. A huddle set for 7 minutes, beginning at 9:03, is more likely to be brief than one set at the more conventional time of 9:00.

Idea 8: You’re not IBM. Show your personality.

All of this love to employees is to make sure customers have a great time visiting your market and agritourism attractions. Kerr recommends that you set a few silly practices in place to emphasize that image. The online photo site, Shutterfly, has a typical phone recording system. That is, until you get to option 7. Listeners are then given the option to hear all the options again, but this time in Pirate (Argh!).