Moneyball is a Movie About Ranching
The first time I watched the movie Moneyball, I about came out of my chair thinking, “This movie is about ranching”. The correlations are strong and the lessons from the movie are absolutely appropriate to agricultural businesses.
In the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane is the general manager of the Oakland A’s, who have just lost their star players and don’t have the budget to compete for top talent. In the following clip he’s meeting with his staff of highly experienced scouts to discuss how to fill the roster.
You can almost see a room full of ranchers looking over a set of cattle, evaluating what they see and discussing which type of cattle would be best to put on their ranch. “See the leg confirmation on that one, look at that udder, the depth of body, etc.” In the clip you can hear Billy searching for a new strategy. Doing business in the same old way isn’t going to cut it for the A’s. “If we try to play like the Yankees in here, we will lose to the Yankees out there.”
If you’re ranching for profit, you’re like the Oakland A’s. Your competition has an unfair advantage. They are likely self-financed, already entrenched with long-term land access, owned livestock and equipment. They often don’t have a profit motive and are willing to subsidize their operation with unpaid labor. If you want to win, you better come up with an unfair advantage or a completely new strategy. What are you willing to do that others are not? Where can you create value and a strong gross margin?
Playing the game the same way everyone else is playing, isn’t going to cut it. Running a good set of cows, getting good conception rates and weaning good calves isn’t enough to make a healthy economic profit. We have to consider the weird stuff.
Billy Beane hires Peter, a data nerd from MIT to identify undervalued players by their performance statistics. It flies in the face of the experienced scouts and causes an uproar in the A’s organization, but the A’s go on to have a stellar season despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. I’m not suggesting you ignore all the years of experience you have in your operation, but I am encouraging you to think beyond the way things have always been done on your place.
What’s the Moneyball approach on your place? Where can you identify and exploit a competitive advantage that others are ignoring? What old ways is your business hanging on to that are hurting rather than helping you move your business forward? Post your experience of thinking outside of the box in the comment section below.