It may be hard to make yourself believe it these days, but you are not to blame for the financial challenges your business is experiencing as a result of volatile commodity prices. 

Take it from an expert — “You aren’t doing anything wrong," and there is only so much that you can do to fix the situation, said attorney John Baker. Speaking at a financial workshop for dairymen in Nashua, Iowa, this week, he offered perspective that can reach beyond the milk house and into most other ag sectors today.

He emphasized to the attendees, “You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t good managers. The bad managers got washed out in the 1980s when land values took a tumble. “The folks who are left in farming are among the best in the world,” he said.

Baker works with the Iowa Concern Hotline, where people can call in and seek advice on legal, financial and emotional problems.

These are stressful times for a lot of people and that only compounds financial pressures, he said. Stress can make it difficult for people to concentrate, process information, make decisions and communicate. Certainly stress can be a source of personal and business conflict.

While conflict is not necessarily harmful, it's how we deal with conflict that can make it harmful or destructive, Baker said. For instance, some people may avoid contact with a person to whom they owe money.

Yet, “one of the best things you can do is stay in contact with creditors so they know what is going on in your operation,” he said. Furthermore, when working with creditors, be proactive, not reactive. Take the lead in finding a solution, including any ideas you have for mediating the debt. Be flexible, and be willing to “give” in order to “get.”    

When problems arise, Baker suggested using the S.O.C.S. model to find solutions. That process includes the following steps:

Situation. Define the situation from many perspectives — financial, legal, social, emotional, personal and family. How many ways can you look at this?

Options. Explore at least two options, but it's even better if you can throw out as many options as possible. Do not reject any option at this point.

Consequences. List the positive and negative consequences associated with each option.

Solution. Select the option that has the best outcome.

It may seem awkward and daunting to force yourself to work through those steps, after all, they are tough questions and the answers may seem especially illusive with today's uncertainty. But the process is worth it and the outcome is invaluable.