The Master and the Novice

by Myron Kliewer

Working out a business plan or cash flow will not assure you of instant success, but it will help bring to light many different hidden costs which you may not have envisaged. It will help guide you to see the difference between a flash of inspiration and something that will really work. Over the next issues we will be discussing the importance of figures and details in helping us manage our businesses.

Did my father work out a sophisticated business plan when he and his brother took over my grandfather's dairy farm? I seriously doubt that any such detailed plan was ever put to paper. Why? Because my grandfather had already faithfully shown them, that by hard work and innovation they could improve both the dairy herd and the 300 acres they farmed. The question was not, will it work, but rather will they be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to develop the valuable inheritance that was so graciously passed on to them? These are some lessons that were handed down to me, the eldest of four privileged children.

Growing up on the farm I learned many important lessons from my father. Details were an important aspect of managing the dairy, it was vital to keep records on every individual animal in the herd--how much did it cost to feed them, how much milk did they produce, what was the butterfat content, etc etc.? This was the only way to know which animal to cull and which to keep. My father painstakingly gathered information so that he knew the answers to these questions every month. Gradually, over time and by keeping good records he was able to improve the pedigree of the herd. It took 45 years of details, details and more details. This was his way of trusting God for the wisdom and guidance he needed to develop his valuable inheritance.

The 300 acres we farmed were a necessity to provide feed for the dairy herd. How many acres of rowcrop are we going to plant? How much hay will we need to feed the herd during the cold winter? When should we rotate our crops? Which type of wheat should we plant this year? When is the best time to plant it? How much fertiliser should we use? These were lessons that can only be learned the hard way by detailed planning. One simple mistake and it could mean a low yield or even a crop failure.

When it came to spending our hard earned money on machinery, we didn't always have the most modern equipment, but we always had what was needed for the time. If the tractor broke down it was very easy to decide if we would buy a new one or repair the present one. Usually we ended up repairing the present one because we could not afford to buy a new one. If the money was available, and we needed a new model we would look for a good deal before making the purchase. Figures and records were like bread and butter--they formed a very practical part of our everyday life.

My father's and mother's faithfulness to their calling in life yielded the fruit of a happy and secure family. We were not sheltered from the facts of life. We knew that if we didn't work we couldn't eat. If we didn't plow the ground, we could not expect God to bring the increase. Together we learned through our failure and success how to do our part, and how to trust God for the increase that He only could bring. As I think of God's faithfulness to our family I think of a story I read some time ago.

It happened in Poland during the late 1800's. A mother took her young son to a concert to hear Ignace Paderewski, a famous pianist and prime minister. Their seats were close to the front of the concert hall.

Upon seeing a close friend, the mother became interested in her conversation, not paying attention to the actions of her young son. Soon it was time for the concert to begin, everyone grew quiet as the lights focused on the grand piano in the middle of the stage. The boy's mother turned to where her son was sitting only to find he was no longer sitting in his chair near her. Her surprise turned to horror as she looked to the stage to find him sitting at the piano playing a simple tune.

Before she could do anything, Mr. Paderewski walked on stage, sat down beside the boy and whispered, "don't quit, keep playing." He reached around the young boy and started playing an obbligato to the boys simple tune." Together the master and the novice held the crowd's attention.

This simple illustration is an example of how life is meant to be lived in relation to figures and details. Yes they are an important part of trusting God. If we will be faithful in doing our part, our Master will put his loving arms around us and take what we have offered him and turn it into "One Big Surprise", not only for us, but for the rest of the world.

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