Organizing The Organization
Part IV -THE RANCHING BUSINESS & TEXAS LONGHORNS
by Darol Dickinson
Starting my seventy-first year of life this last Fall as a livestock thespian, one consistent thing keeps whacking me upside the head -- the organizing of the organizations. Some run smooth, then bumpy, some go broke, some flourish, some get robbed, some bounce from audit to audit and some we won't ever know what all really did happen.
In 4-H, I showed rabbits, dairy heifers, horses and once bought the Grand Champion Mille Fleur Rooster at the Denver National Western Stock Show to develop a special breed of ornamental fowl. During my life I have been a member of numerous cattle breed associations and the American Quarter Horse Assn. I was involved in raising registered Appaloosa, Thoroughbreds, registered fainting goats, exotic pheasants, white tail deer, and even milk goats for a "very" short time.
As the first association organizational meeting takes place there seems to be wonderful agreement, friendly cooperation and unity of thought. The usual "You be President, no you do it" makes a humble foundation for the beginning of what can turn into world war three in a few short years.
At first, the most energetic and heavily invested, most qualified leader of the breed is an easy choice for the President. He does the most cheer-leading stuff, has the most to gain or lose and acts accordingly. It is great if he is a strong leader and smart at business. As years go by his success, or lack of it, rubs some natives the wrong way, so he is replaced. Eventually the most critical, hardest fighting person becomes president and promises to change things for the good. Sometimes a handsome "newcomer" is elected with no depth of knowledge concerning the organization's historic goals. Some are elected with great enthusiasm and burn out in a few weeks. Some get vicious and some just simply don't show up for the job.
A frequent evolution in national or affiliate associations is the using-up of leaders. After an association is 10 or 20 years along, often the enthusiasm reduces into less committed leadership. At times talented or even very good people "accept" the office and just slightly have a horse in the race. It is at this time that leadership gets even more important. When the value of the breed is reduced by over production or the nation's economy, it is difficult for a partly-committed leader to retain motivation. Once a down market chokes the association it is imperative to elect even stronger leadership to turn around this trend -- and that is where real leadership style is supremely tested. Such a day is this.
It is fortunate if the organization starts out with a levelheaded set of by-laws. It is good if the members have regional representation, get to nominate their replacement leaders from mail-in ballots and every member votes for every office -- by mail. A qualified independent auditing firm should count the votes with the official tally provided to every person of interest. (No in-house vote counting)
Systems of authority:
There are cut and dried governing methods. Each has it's strong and weak points.
- A democracy allows every member to vote on every issue. This may be costly and complicated. It is democratic, but slow. The R-CALF organization is this way.
- A dictatorship eliminates any voting costs, bylaw problems or embarrassing business meetings. The dictator just does it their way come hell or high-water. No reports or auditing is allowed.
- A representative government allows a process whereby a small number are elected democratically, to make the decisions for the whole organization.
The fourth system is most used. It is a combination of the above. One or more attempt to be the dictator, a representative governing by-law system is enacted, but at every meeting reactionary members stand up and expresses their differing opinions, and the dissension hotly multiplies.
State and Federal governments have laws passed with full rights of hanging, electrocution, lethal injections or a firing squad. For cattle breed associations they are not this advanced, yet, and seem content with the joys of excessive rule making, expulsions and penalties for not getting show entries in at the proper date. The ability to continually add rules on top of rules makes the simple association handbook grow like the federal tax code.
Once a meeting in Colorado was being hotly fought-out over procedures that most in the room did not understand. The sage Don Zavisland, of Watusi fame, raised his hand, "This is my first meeting, and do I understand this right -- is someone getting ahead of the others?" He saw exactly what was happening, that a rule was in the works to quickly slow down the front runner. This is often the "shady" foundation of most new rules -- in the good interest of "fairness" to all.
When things get really to the edge of the court house, someone makes a motion to establish an "Ethics Committee." Quickly, the "Al Capone type" of the organization, without a second's hesitation, volunteers to chair the ethics committee. He normally starts winning a lot more shows.
As organizations grow, the talk of "little people" and "money people" multiplies the rumble. The entry level people seldom have the where-with-all to jump right in and excel when they are not competitively experienced. In many ways the more established producers have had the time to learn from their mistakes, understand the system and succeed in the business.
When either end of the "class" battle breaks loose, there is never a winner. In fact memberships start to dwindle immediately.
Wise established producers know they must have entry level members to market their excess animals. Each seasoned producer makes known and unknown contributions to encourage and help the entry level people and the association. It is good future planning to build this incoming new group in order to multiply the market place. Each time a beginner succeeds it is a wonderful thing for the organization overall and most of all for the established producers. Everyone wins as new producers succeed.
"Little people" as with freshmen in high school, by the nature of the system, do not start immediately at the top. There is a learning curve and breeding-up process. New members benefit from those who have gone before, invested, donated, generated the fund raising and paid the major costs to keep the doors open.
There is a difference in members. At one organization fund raiser banquet "Gold Tables" were sold for VIP front row seating. A hand full of people bought these VIP tables for them and their friends for $1000 each -- it was a sweet donation, and a very helpful one. As these generous donors were taking their seats I noticed over in a distant corner certain other people were sneaking in from behind a curtain to also receive a "free" banquet steak dinner. All were members -- but recalling, the "sneakers" had taken shots at the "money people" the previous day during the general business meeting -- it was a sickening kind of hypocrisy.
Once the little people, or the money people draw a line in the sand it is a down hill run. For a successful organization it takes all kinds, like it or not. If you are in one of these groups on one side of the sword-line and find yourself hating those on the other side -- quickly slap yourself upside the head and get a grip. You are killing your organization with bitter "class warfare."
- Develop solid, simple bylaws that give the total membership a mail-in vote to elect a representative set of officers. (Every member and officer has an obligation to know the bylaws.)
- Bylaws should allow a system of board governance with under 10 directors in number -- total.
- Work to keep people out of elected office that want to enforce multiple trivial rules. Harsh rule makers and enforcers kill associations at all levels.
- Elect leaders really serious about breed promotion outside the industry. The whole future is outside, outside, outside.
- Have a professional parliamentarian in charge of all meetings until the natives understand bylaws and correct procedures. Cowboy random-rules of order never work. Cowboys invented the lynch mobs -- remember?
- On Ethics Committee meetings, there is a difference in a simple error and a habitual violator. Know the difference.
- Keep service fees profitable to sustain solvency. Keep fees low to prevent class warfare. It is most important that the pricey fees do not element entry level people from playing the game with full gusto. Know the middle ground.
- Assure yourself, before voting on anything, that the entry level people will not be harmed by any new legislation. Be entry level friendly and the established producers will always come out very well.
- Encourage election of leaders who practice sensible, polite behavior, then get out of their way.