Choosing the Farmer or Hunter Approach to Business

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Growing up, my siblings and I used to be shipped over to our village on holidays (or maybe punishment) to live with my grand-parents. They had a large plot of land behind

their house where they planted a variety of crops ranging from maize, cassava, scent leaves and everything in between.

In the mornings around 5a.m, we would wake up grudgingly to accompany grandma to the farm and help her till, weed and sometimes harvest these crops. She also had a poultry with old layers that gave us a steady supply of eggs. We had to pick those eggs and wash them every morning. As a city kid, I enjoyed doing these chores nearly as much as anyone would enjoy getting a beating from Floyd Mayweather. But we did it anyway, because we were often rewarded afterwards with large bowls of delicious soups with big chunks of meat. Plus the punishment of not doing it was much to bear.

We also had an uncle who didn't have a farm. But he had a large dane gun which he went out hunting with. Sometimes he came back empty handed and other times he came back with a small antelope, monkey, squirrel or even a snake. You never knew what he would bring home. It was as unpredictable as the winning numbers on a lottery ticket.

Farmers take their time to cultivate their lands, plant their seeds and get rid of weeds, pests and deal with parasites that sometimes affect the growth of a plant. They understand the crop cycles and know the time it takes for each plant to mature. So largely their outcome is predictable.

Hunters on the other hand largely have to guess where the animals are. So they have traps which they place in various locations and bait wild animals. Then they take a long solitary walk into the forest and stalk more wild animals. They see a target and take a shot with their gun. Sometimes they hit target. Other times they miss. When they miss their first shot, it usually means they don't get anymore that day. The loud sound of a gun scares every animal for miles and they go into hiding or scamper away deeper into the forest.

Now this childhood experience got me thinking lately. In your business, are you a farmer or a hunter?

Do you cultivate your relationships or do you simply point and kill at random?

Are your relationships with your customers relational or transactional in nature?

Do you have a long-term relationship with your customers that yield more referrals even after bearing fruit and laying eggs?

Great businesses that operate with a farmer mentality have a steady supply of repeat customers who buy today and come back again to buy again and again. It doesn't cost money to get these referrals or repeat business, it just takes time and attention to cultivate the already existing relationships.

Businesses that operate from a hunter-mindset have to contend with having one-hit wonders. They secure a big customer today and for several reasons they fail to ensure the long term patronage of that customer or even win any other referrals from them. Tomorrow they'll have to go out hunting again for a new and different type of customer. Hunters like these spend tremendous amount of money in marketing and sales effort with little to show for it.

So are you a farmer or do you eat what you kill? Are you cultivating relationships with your already existing customer base or are you too busy looking for bush meat to kill that you overlook the chickens in your backyard?

Of course you may argue that you are ever so busy, but perhaps getting a good relationship officer whose job like my childhood job is primarily to take care of the chickens and weed your farm won't be such a bad idea after all. Just ensure that such a person really cares about your customers (unlike I who never did care much about animals) and you'll find it easy to ensure that you get new business from old client over and over and over again.

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Ebuka Anichebe

He is the Managing Director of Jean-Paul and Associates Consultancy - a business advisory and training organization. He is passionate about teaching and human capital development. He is a published author, distinguished speaker and business strategist. He also loves rice and beans. Reach him on . 

1 comment

  • Comment Link Afolayan Abraham Dayo Aug 11 2015 posted by Afolayan Abraham Dayo

    It was a nice presentation most especially the hunter, Farmer approach. I have used a lot of strategies in dealing with my customers on a daily basis but most times customers reaction's do vary most especially in an environment where there are lots of commpition you want to meant your standard while some don't even care of whatever is packaged so far its cheaper in price.


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