Textbooks are great, don’t get me wrong. In fact, if you’re currently participating in one of White Commercial Corporation’s basis trading courses there’s a very good chance that you are also using our textbook The Art of Grain Merchandising. The thing with textbooks is that they aren’t particularly well suited to interacting with you the way your future customer or co-worker will once you enter the field. While you certainly can learn the underlying structures and functions of the grain marketing industry in college, here are four items you need to know that aren’t found in any textbook or class.
What They Don’t Teach You in College About Grain Merchandising
1) We are in the relationship business, we just happen to trade grain – You can (and should) become the expert for your regional grain market, but if you can’t interact effectively with others in the marketplace (farmers and end users) you will find that no amount of expertise will make you successful in the long run. Lesson: You merchandise with the people, not the bushels.
2) Market participants seldom act in the most economically rational manner, despite all the case studies in your econ class – We are dealing with human beings here, not robots. To that end many non-economic issues can and do affect the decision-making process; emotions, perceptions and influences just to name a few (peruse a grain marketing thread on AgTwitter to get a first hand look). Our industry truly is a study in human behavior and the better you can understand & relate to the people you work for, with and alongside, the better your odds of becoming an effective grain merchandiser. Lesson: The market isn’t always black & white.
3) We grain merchants really are a small tribe – In the grand scheme of things the Ag Industry as a whole is huge, but the circle of professionals who call themselves grain merchandisers is fairly modest in scope. Given enough years in service, it’s very plausible that the relationship between you and another merchant can go from co-worker, to competitor, to employer/employee and back to co-worker in one career lifetime. The Golden Rule is in full effect for this business. Lesson: Don’t burn bridges unless you can swim better than you can merchandise.
4) Don’t worry about knowing everything there is to know about grain merchandising on day one – Many of the folks who have been trading grain for decades lack complete knowledge of their particular region (let alone all the inner workings of the wider market) yet that does not keep them from being effective traders. The truly great merchants have a desire to continually broaden their understanding of the markets. Whether through regular communication with others in their career network or through continuing their education via the advanced professional development courses offered by White Commercial Corp., these folks stay in the vanguard of basis trading. Lesson: Always be learning.
Textbooks are great, don’t get me wrong, just remember that they represent but one of many resources you have available to prepare for your career in grain merchandising. After all, how effective is a carpenter with only a hammer in her toolbox? Seek out these intangibles and strive to perfect your process.
In the end, any grain merchandiser can comprehend grain values; it’s the ability to understand people and analyze situations that set the truly best in the business apart from the rest.
Get details about White Commercial’s online programs and learn about our other University Partners on AgCareers.com.
Guest Blog Post by: Roger Gattis, Merchandising Development Team
Roger joined the WCC Team in April 2014, but has been a part of the WCC Family since May 2003 as the manager/merchandiser of participant elevators in the South and Midwest. He uses his working knowledge of grain merchandising to educate customers on how to become more effective basis traders.