Can You Sleep When The Wind Blows?

Taking care of business means more than just caring about today.

By Mark Riffey

A young unemployed man is walks up to a farmer’s place, looking to earn some money before he heads back to school in the fall.

He knocks on the screen door, and soon a tanned, wrinkled face appears. The farmer’s face shows years of hard work in the fields. When he shakes the young man’s hand, the young man can easily tell that the old guy is strong as a mule, despite his age.

The young man walks out to the barn and talks for a while with the farmer. The farmer takes a liking to the young man, but just isn’t quite sure about him. Finally, as they sit down in the kitchen for a glass of tea, he sizes the young man up with one last question: “Why should I hire you instead of going to town and finding a farm hand?”

The young man says “I can sleep soundly at night when the wind blows.” The farmer studies the man for a moment, still not quite sure, but extends a tan, wrinkled hand and says “Ok, we’ll give it a try.”

Weeks pass. After learning to run the equipment, care for the animals and tend the crops, the hand is working out fine. He spends his evenings reading in his room in the basement. The farmer’s wife doesn’t care for the young man. She and the farmer discuss it almost every day, but the farmer convinces her to wait it out.

Meanwhile, the farmer has been spending more time in town. He’s taken an interest in studying new crops and other techniques. In his absence, his wife is worried that her husband is letting the hand have too much run of the farm.

One particularly hot humid day, storm clouds form. It was obvious all afternoon that something was brewing and the long, hot day of work is going to end with a storm. The farmer brought home ice cream, so they settled down on the porch to enjoy it. The wife notices that the farmer left one of the windows down on the truck. The farmer says he’ll take care of it when they are done. After eating ice cream, reading the paper and chatting about what’s going on in town, the open window is forgotten.

A few hours later, the storm hits. Wind and rain build slowly. The storm gets stronger, thundering and lightning more frequently and with stronger, gustier winds. The hand is in bed, sleeping deeply. The farmer’s wife confronts the farmer – the farm hand is lying in bed, not worried about what is happening to the barn and the animals, their farm equipment, or the truck they drive to town.

The farmer, finally concerned that the hand is not doing his job, pulls on his galoshes and a jacket and runs out into the storm to check on the animals, close the window on the truck, and button down anything that was left open.

Minutes later, he steps back onto the back porch, where his wife hands him a towel to wipe his glasses and face. Shortly after he sits down to shed his soaked clothes, hail starts to fall.

Once the farmer has dried off, his wife says “I sure hope that hail didnt ruin the fields. Did you get everything?”

The farmer slides his glasses back on and takes his wife’s hand. He looks her in the eye and says: “The truck windows were already rolled up. The animals and equipment were in the barn, blinders were on the horses, all the gates and doors were closed up and barred. Bags of fertilizer and seed that were sitting out for tomorrow were tarped and tied down. All I did was get wet.”

She looked at him and said “Lets get some sleep.”, realizing the hand said he could sleep soundly when the wind blows because he knew everything was done and safe before stopping work for the day.

When morning comes, they find their crops are destroyed – beat to pieces by the hail. When the farmer and his wife return from the fields and sit down to talk about it, the farmer is relieved because some of the time he spent in town was used to learn about hedging and the futures market.

Can you and your staff sleep when the wind blows?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him at [email protected].