Startup Lessons from Working on a Farm

I grew up in one of the most northern parts of New York, called North Bangor. It’s a region that’s a barren wasteland to the startup industry. Livestock outnumber the people and your first job at the ripe age of “walking” is working on a farm.

It’s extremely tough work and it’s an even tougher lifestyle.

Even though the tech industry might not relate to the old ways of farmers, we should evaluate those old lessons to become better.

“Farming is a profession of hope” ~ Brian Brett

Shoveling shit is an everyday job… Get used to it!

Let’s start with the basics here. I think this lesson goes without saying, but if you’re not into the everyday hustle, you’re more than likely going to fail with your startup.

In every startup, there are always those trivial tasks that you have to deal with on a daily basis. No one really wants to do them, but they are necessary for your startup to become successful.

Either you want success or you don’t. You decide.

Have grit because there ain’t no crying in farming

You think that your startup is hard? Try farming. No seriously… try it. It will give you a whole new perspective on life.

While you’re drinking that mocha frappu-bullshit and sitting on your ergonomic chair in an air conditioned office, there’s a kid half your size slinging hay bales in a loft that’s hotter than Texas for a measly $8 per hour.

What will separate you from the pack of hungry startup enthusiasts is grit. Learn how to have thick skin and how to bounce back when you fail. Because more than likely, you will fail at least once.

Livestock rely on you and so do your users

Want to only work 9–5, Monday through Friday, and have multiple vacations a year? Sounds like heaven to me. Well guess what? The farm’s not going to run itself.

Farming is a 24/7/365 job and so is your startup. Part of startup failure isn’t just about poor product or market fit, but because you leave the office at 5, take 3 coffee breaks, and an hour for lunch. WTF!

“If you live for the weekends and vacation, your shit is broken.” ~ Gary Vaynerchuk

Work hard, but efficient

On a dairy farm, you have to wake up at 4:30 AM for morning chores and then go right to milking 300+ cows. This happens twice a day. Everything in-between is either more chores, field maintenance, farm upkeep, crops, or business to keep the farm running.

Efficiency is key for a farmer to be able to handle everything for 365 days a year. The same goes for anyone in the startup world. Look at your process and continue to evaluate your output. Your process is never 100% perfect!

When you plan your startup process, you’ll receive a higher quality and more efficient product. By dedicating your time to doing a job correctly and efficiently, you are more likely to get your desired results.

Your tools can kill you if you don’t know how to use them

I grew up with grandfather who lost his arm to a farm accident (and he could still outwork most men). This would be one of many accidents that would happen to my family. Some not so serious and others… fatal.

Even though you might not lose your arm to a chatbot or a task management tool, you can still bleed out by being unproductive.

Ok, so what are you saying, Seth? Tools can hurt productivity? The short answer is, YES!

If you’re going to use tools to help run your startup, at least do some research before you spend all of your time testing them out. After research, test them out with a select few. Don’t be distracting your team from the core goal of your company to “try” out a new app. There are features to be built!


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These are a few lessons that I’ve experienced in my time with startups and I hope this inspires you. If you ever need any help with product design, I’m always here.

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Seth is a Product Designer & Maker | Co-Founder of Botlist, an app store for bots. Also these other 20 Product Hunt projects.

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