Dave Pratt scribbled rapidly across the giant post-it board. He switched colors with ideas, added seemingly cryptic equations to the margins, circled the immovable line and ended with what looked like one side of a NCAA tournament bracket. The championship game was won by a profitable ranch. The ranch branched into a three-way runoff between overhead, gross margins and turnover, with land and labor locked into the overhead game. It looked… complicated. Then he turned the portrait-oriented paper on its side. "Now what does it look like?" he asked. Thanks to some visual cues from the Ranch Management Consultant owner earlier in his workshop, a flash of recognition lit up a few participants' eyes. A more natural analogy took root in the sideways diagram. Suddenly, the 'profitable ranch' line morphed into a sturdy tree trunk, with its branches extending up toward the paths of reduced overhead, increased gross margin per unit and increased turnover, with scattered but strategic limbs reaching further to the top of the page. "I don't have the answers, and I'm not here to tell you what to do on your ranch," Pratt said. "My job is to ask, 'have you looked at it this way?'"
Originally published Nov. 7, 2018 in the Tri-State Livestock News.