Oly’s Seven Rules For Survival

Oly’s Seven Rules For Survival

Carlson, Will

LATE summer brought a terrible disaster to the Gulf Coast. It is also a significant problem for the whole country. While this devastation is the greatest natural disaster we have ever seen, it should be a vivid reminder to those who grow living products of the real need to be prepared as best they can in case a similar situation happens to them.

There is no doubt that there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent a Category 5 hurricane from hitting your business if you are in the hurricane-prone areas of the United States. However, there are plenty of precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk and to help your business survive after the storm is over.

You must have adequate insurance and a support system that can help you overcome the situation. The most important factor is to have good friends, colleagues, employees, growers, suppliers and customers.

Every since the hurricane hit, I’ve been looking at a painting by George Stachwick, an old friend of mine who was a marketing specialist in Extension at Michigan State University. He was a very talented artist who painted portraits of Native Americans and western cowboys. I bought one of his cowboy paintings entitled “Oly Remuda – Boss.”

All About Oly

Oly was a trail boss who lived and worked in the Montana area. George would tell me stories about each of his paintings, how hard life was in the Western United States, and how the people in his paintings had to survive in rough weather conditions to do their jobs. They faced droughts, frigid temperatures, great snowstorms, tornadoes and floods.

Oly was in charge of 1,000 head of cattle and had eight to 10 wranglers to manage. Everyone he met knew him as “the Boss.” He was a take charge guy who was responsible for his employees, his herd, the natural environment and the protection of his operation from outlaws. He had to be in charge no matter what happened. At any time, no matter what the situation, he was the Boss.

Here are the rules Oly followed. They are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago. I’d suggest you might want to hang up Oly’s picture and his seven rules to help you cope with the unexpected.

Rule 1: Know What’s Happening

As the Boss, Oly kept in touch with what was happening around him. He knew his wranglers. He knew how to handle his cattle, what they needed and where he could get food, water and safety for them. He was his own weatherman and knew what to expect from years of experience on the plains and in the mountains. He probably had his copy of the Farmer’s Almanac and could tell by cloud formations and experience what was going to happen. He also kept in touch with the sheriff and local people to keep track of outlaws in the area. He would talk with other ranchers and, once in a while, would see a newspaper. He did his best to develop a network and make contacts to stay in control of his operation.

Rule 2: Be Prepared

As a good Boss, Oly made plans for the unexpected. He always had a month’s supply of food and water for his help. He also took care of his cattle to make sure they were near water and had plenty of hay nearby. He and his wranglers knew how to handle the predators that would attack their animals, and he wasn’t afraid to take care of any rustlers who tried to poach from the herd. Oly was prepared to survive for a month if all services and supplies were cut off.

Rule 3: Get The Right Team

In order for your business to survive, you have to have the right team. While Oly was the Boss, he knew the people he had to have to keep his operation going: the wranglers, the cook, the support people – the vet, the blacksmith – and all the others he needed to keep 1,000 cattle alive and well and to get them to market when and where the sale was made.

Rule 4: Expect The Unexpected

Oly had a plan for all the factors that he couldn’t control. He knew several ways to get to any destination. He worked out his “what if?” scenarios. What if there was a three-foot snowfall? What if there was a drought? What if two or three of his wranglers left? What if outlaws hit the herd? What if there was a tornado? What if he had to hold the herd for a month longer? He anticipated all the things that could go wrong and what he would do if they happened.

Rule 5: Communicate – Know How To Send And Receive

Oly was a good listener. He would listen to his wranglers, to his cook, to the local people, to anyone who came by the camp. He also knew what was going on in the towns in the area and he kept in touch with the owners and the other bosses. Oly, while a man of few words, used them effectively. When he spoke, everyone listened. People did what he said. They did exactly what the Boss ordered. No one questioned him. He was known as a truthful and honest man.

Rule 6: Control Everything You Can

Oly tried to rely on the resources he had and the people who worked with him. He also tried to be in control of the essentials that he needed to survive in case something went wrong. He had control of the food, shelter and safety he needed to manage his operation. Once he had these items secured, he was able to work on the tasks he had to do. He was the Boss, but he knew his job was to take care of everyone and every animal he was responsible for. The title of Boss was his only because he made a commitment to taking care of all that he controlled. Oly did not take that title lightly.

Rule 7: Know Who Will Help, Where They Are And How To Get Them – Fast!

Oly knew that no man is an island. While he was the rock of the ranching operation, handling all the day-to-day decisions and respected by the whole community, he was also aware that, if everything failed and he needed help, he would need it quickly. He made the contacts. If he needed money, he knew the banker. If he needed supplies, he knew the local merchants. If he needed help with outlaws, he knew the sheriff. And, if he had great losses, he knew the owners and had a plan to use in case of an emergency.

Using Oly’s Rules

These are Oly’s seven rules on how to survive. I have purposely not used floriculture examples because I would like you to relate these seven rules to your home, family and business. Use these seven rules or make rules of your own. The point is to know what to do in a disaster.

While I was a specialist in Michigan, I saw growers go through tornadoes, microbursts, three feet of snow, droughts, floods, fires and many other disasters. Some caused a business to die. Some helped the business to grow and improve, and some made the community of growers grow closer together. How you react to what happens will determine the end results.

My wife Barbara has constantly reminded me in the last few month after Katrina that “something good always comes out of something bad.” Our hopes and prayers are with the growers and the people who have suffered the wrath of Katrina. Oly, Barbara and I hope something good will come out of all the suffering.

Will Carlson

Senior Editor


About the author: Will Carlson is a consultant and retired Michigan State University professor; will@greenhousegrower.com. To buy Dr. Carlson’s book, “One To Grow On,” visit www.meisterpro.com.

Copyright Meister Media Worldwide Nov 2005

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