Harvey Mackay emphasizes the importance of loving what you do — no matter what your age:
Donna Frantz’s greatest skill isn’t the organic farming that has dominated her life for the last 16 years. It’s the passion for living her dream and working tirelessly with energy and dedication. At age 81, she is not about to stop learning and doing new things. You read that right – age 81. Frantz and her husband, Leon, had started a seasonal farmers market that eventually grew into a year-round florist and gift shop which they operated for 21 years. However, she really wanted a farm. After looking for 19 years, a farmer finally asked her if she was still interested in buying, telling her he would sell the next year. “I’ve already waited 19 years,” she told him. “I can wait for one more.” So at age 65, when most folks are seriously contemplating retirement, they moved to the farm – her “25 acres of gold.” I recently spent four hours with Frantz as she proudly showed me her farm. As long as she can physically work the farm and her mind stays sharp, there is no desire to retire. “The soil around Waconia, Minnesota, is rich and black and perfect for my life-long dream to grow and share these fabulous vegetables with people,” Frantz says. The organic produce is freshly picked every day, then washed and brought into the lower level of their renovated and restored 1890s German bank barn, which houses her business, “At the Farm.” Besides vegetables, she also sells seeds, herbs, flowers and vegetable plants. Her five employees, whom she refers to as her “elves,” taste everything before they sell the crop – just to be sure it meets her standards. But the most important commodity Frantz dispenses is wisdom: farming advice to be sure, but also motivation, dedication, common sense and living with passion. I asked one of her employees to share Frantz’s secret: “She’s always in the moment. She always wants to know what is going on in our lives and the lives of customers – success of kids, sickness, vacations, everything.” Her mother told her never to be a farmer despite the fact that both her parents made a living doing so. “Mother had an A-plus work ethic,” Frantz said. “Dad was outgoing with a terrific sense of humor. Dad said ‘Never, never, never worry.’ He just flew by the seat of his pants and had a let-it-flow attitude.” To live her dream, she [Frantz ignored her mother’s advice. She works seven days a week and has never taken a vacation. She loves her work and can’t believe she created this. Every morning, Frantz gets on her tractor, travels around her farm and continually reminds herself that all this is beyond her wildest dreams. She reads self-help books – not for enjoyment – but to learn. I asked Frantz to prioritize what made her successful. Aside from her first answer, which is what every good farmer would tell you, the rest of her advice is universal regardless of the business you’re in.
Frantz said, “I don’t care how many zeros you have in sales – from $1 million to $100 million – business concepts won’t change. It’s better than money when people like what you do.”
- Soil: The soil smells good after it rains.
- Quality of products: It’s important to not be too economical and don’t let the cost of your seed get in the way of quality. You must have good seed to be successful.
- Research, research, research: If it’s a new seed, you test and test. You will never know how good it is until you grow it and try it.
- Be good to your customers. Tell them when you don’t know.
- Above all, you must be honest.
- Stand behind your product. If someone gets a bad melon, they can throw it away and get a new one.