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Key Idea: Make a Perfect Product

Bob Sakata grows some of the sweetest corn in the world. He consistently asks, "How can I improve?" Logon and view all the videos of this episode.

Key Question:


Always think, "How can I do this better?". Bob doesn't ask, "How do I get this done?" He asks, "How can I improve?"
Q: What is the difference in these two questions and why is the second question more important to the long-term success of your business than the first?

A: If you ask yourself and your employees, "How do we get this done?," you'll find an answer but it may be what I'd like to call the "quick-and-dirty answer."

Finding a way to get things done is generally not difficult. The hard thing is to find the most elegant solution based upon what you know today. And you remember Bob said he still thinks like a young man. I believe that is because he assumes change. He assumes he has to constantly learn new things. He can't keep doing things the way he did them yesterday.

Bob is a student. He studies all the steps of his business constantly. He steps back and watches how tasks are being executed. By always asking, "How can we do this better?," he has built-in his own continuous improvement system.

Much has been written about Total Quality Management (TQM) since the 1980s. This a formal process used in many big companies, including GE's Six Sigma, that has been adopted by many small businesses successfully. One company you can study here that installed a formal TQM processes is Texas Nameplate and it won the Texas Quality Award in 1995 and then went on to win the Malcolm Baldrige award for quality in 1998.

By searching to continuously improve, Bob is always investing for the future. He invests in engineering, machinery, systems, procedures and technology. He has been doing this since 1946 and it's clearly the reason he is grows and sells more vegetables than most growers today. We can never rest or feel content. Yes, you do have to pat yourself and your employees on the back once in awhile, but generally it is the state of discontent that fosters our growth.

Bob's father told him that whatever he decided to do with his life, he should strive to be the best. Is there a downside to this advice?

A:  Yes. Your first attempts may not work out. Bob has only been a farmer; by applying his father's advice while farming, Bob has become better than others. When he started farming in 1946, it took 26% of the population to feed us. Today it only takes 1.8% of the population to grow our food. Not only has Bob been successful, but he has made it big in an industry that has shut its doors on thousands. However, you cannot do it better than other people if they have talent and you do not. Hard work will not make up for raw ability if the people with raw ability are applying themselves. If by chance they are all lazy, you may have a chance at being the best. So, find your raw talent, then work hard and you'll be better than the competitors.

Topic for Discussion: If your parents didn't give you any advice, are you stuck finding your own way?

Answer: Yes and no. You have to find your own way but you are not stuck. There are wise people; you just have to find them. Look for people who have in their lives what you want in your life. In the case of a business, do you want 100 employees as Bob has? Then start spending time with business owners who have 100 employees. If you want to understand any aspect of business, join the group that focuses on that body of knowledge.

Think about it

What aspect of your business needs improvement? What can you do to make the needed improvements? Should you hire a consultant? Ask employees what they think?

Clip from: Sakata Farms

Brighton, Colorado: In this episode of our show, we return to the farm to meet an inventor and one of America's biggest vegetable growers. His name is Bob Sakata and his life's journey, his cause, has been to lighten the load of the farm worker.  He is driven because he does not forget all the back-breaking work he did as a child. Here is a man with a deep affection for life. He is naturally gracious and has a generous spirit.  His goal is to make work easier for the people he loves, and he has.

Since his earliest days on the farm back in the 1940, Bob Sakata has invented many labor saving devices; many of which you will see in this episode.  Bob is an activist;  he loves farming.  On his 3200+ acres grows some of the the sweetest corn on earth because of Bob's seed cultivations.

Bob lobbied for the repeal of the death tax; and in June 2003, the farmers of America won their day on Capitol Hill. Yet, in a very real way, we all won. Keeping open space, seeking alternatives to urban sprawl, requires us all to embrace the source of our food,  the farmlands. 

We call small business owners New American Heroes because they are innovators, risk takers, and job generators.

A servant within his industry, Bob Sakata has been the President of the National Onion Association, the president of the National Sugarbeet Growers Association, a celebrated member of the Cooperative Extension Advisory Board at Colorado State University, a director or president of one of several irrigation ditch companies, a director of the Adams County Economic Development Board, a member of Colorado Food Safety Task Force, a local School Board president, an adviser to the USDA, and so much more.

Quite deservedly, he and his wife, Joanna, were inducted into the Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1999.  Now, meet Bob Sakata, an American icon, the farmer.

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Hattie's blog about Sakata Farms

Sakata Farms

Bob Sakata, founder, owner

South 4th and Bromley Lane
PO Box 508
Brighton, Colorado 80601, CO 80601

Visit our web site: ../../page2463.html

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1948

Make a Perfect Product

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. If you want to grow the business you already have or simply get started working for yourself, we can help you. Every week, right here, small business owners tell their secrets about starting, running, and growing a business. We call small-business owners the new American heroes because we are the innovators and job generators.

Bob Sakata has been doing just that for decades. We take you now to Brighton, Colorado, to meet a new American hero. (Voiceover) It's harvest time on one of Bob Sakata's fields in Colorado. The big machines do the work now, but Bob shows me the pleasure of picking and tasting his specially developed fresh ear of corn.

BOB SAKATA: Here it is. The machine goes like this picks it off. And you see how cool that ear is?

HATTIE: It's so gorgeous.

BOB: And I won't test it out. You just bite into it and pull.

HATTIE: And this is going to taste fabulous raw right like this?

BOB: Just like that. (Hattie takes a bite of corn that Bob has pulled from a huge cornstalk.)

HATTIE: It is incredible. You want a taste?

BOB: I'm going to see if you're telling the truth.

HATTIE: You're the professional. Now why does it taste so good?

BOB: Put all the nutrients that this corn needs so it would have everything the corn needs.

HATTIE: be perfect.

BOB: Yes, to be perfect.

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