Under-the-hood of Braintrust Ag

Feb 18, 2024 | Uncategorized

Since Braintrust Ag started last August, I’ve been wrestling with what this group really is.

If I don’t understand it, how can I explain it to other people?

So, I’ll take some time today to outline what Braintrust Ag is partially for my behalf; part of it is for your behalf; and part of it is to be transparent with anyone reading to see we’re in the process of making the sausage… but might not have a final bratwurst yet.

And hopefully that inspires some entrepreneurs to stop waiting and start their thing.

What’s the origin story?

Braintrust Ag started as a clearing house of information to try and answer the FAQs I get after posting online about various farm & ranch business management and transition topics.

Initially called “Agri-Business Braintrust” over a year ago…

Remember this?

the idea was to create a single online location to download files beneficial to farm & ranch business operators. These tools (spreadsheets, guides, checklists, eBooks, etc) were what I was using daily to assist ag clients through my one-on-one consulting services.

And, some members initially signed up to my half-baked idea.

Turns out, those initial members wanted to meet and learn from each other.

And, they wanted to connect with experts.

So, Agri-Business Braintrust transitioned from a resource directory + a content newsletter into → the growing peer group community now known as Braintrust Ag.

Who the heck is Clint?

Hi, my name is Clint Fischer.

I’m someone passionate and curious about agriculture & business. That passion has morphed through 12+ years of managing ag retail locations & business start-ups + law school into defying odds to become an attorney focused on ag transitions & business law.

Tied to rural South Dakota, I’m an entrepreneur at heart who can’t shake my ag roots. The business world embraced me through many ventures and spit me out almost as frequently.

→ I’ve started multiple businesses; most failed, some succeeded… the key is I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes.

My passion is twofold:

  1. helping young & beginner ag folks find their own ag operation, and
  2. guide owners through the challenges of succession & transition planning to ensure they’re leaving a lasting legacy.

That passion led to law school and my current role as an attorney at Ribstein & Hogan Law Firm in Brookings, SD where I focus on farm transition, estate, and business law.

None of this would have been possible without incredible sacrifices from my wife and (now) three young daughters.

Holy buckets have they ever supported me…

Aside from my ultimate priorities of faith, marriage, and family, I focus on legal clients and growing the Braintrust Ag community. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see members learn & share from each other on various ag topics across borders.

What’s the purpose of Braintrust Ag?

Braintrust Ag is a peer group for ag folks.

Agriculture has historically & inherently been a lonely profession due to the very nature of the work.

We’re building a community to combat that isolation.

It’s a place where farmers, ranchers, ag business owners, and ag professionals can come together and focus on building better businesses.

→ There’s a lot of noise out there (markets, weather, production practices, social media opinions) and we strive to set that noise aside to connect with, share with, and learn from other like-minded people.

To accomplish that, there’s 7 main features for members:

    • Meet peers
    • Access & share business resources
    • Bi-weekly Zoom meet-ups
    • Weekly Sunrise Sessions
    • Monthly Q&A w/ experts
    • Forum discussions
    • Shared media & future courses

Of course this newsletter, various resources, and the Pro Provider directory are made available for free to anyone. (probably to the detriment of my wallet, but that’s ok).

What values do members share?

First and foremost, members are thirsty to drink the knowledge of other members.

→ I’ve personally learned more from other members in the past 6 months than my 4 yrs in undergrad.

Also, there’s 4 main community cornerstones members share:

Business Minded

Recognizing ag is a lifestyle, but also needs to be treated as a business to ensure leaving a legacy for future generations.

Foster Connections

We’re your online farmer coffee shop crowd, but better. Build a network with like-minded peers who aren’t your “local competition.”

Givers Not Takers

The key benefit to any peer group is the willingness to share. Whether that’s stories, opportunities, insight, lessons, or resources, you’re among generous friends in this group.

Legacy Builders

Whether we’re starting from scratch or looking to transition an operation, we want to build and pass along a lasting legacy

Why isn’t it free?

I’ve been asked this multiple times, and the short answer is this: it costs money (not even including my time) to facilitate this community.

We use WordPress, Circle, Zoom, Stripe, Canva, and a few other online platforms to make all of this happen. Even though I try to charm these big tech businesses with my dashing good looks, they still charge me each month to use their software.

Frankly, I’m probably the poster child of what not-to-do when it comes to starting an online “business.”

But, I’m okay with that because the intent for Braintrust Ag is to build community, not to cash in.

So you’re aware, my fixed costs are ~$500/month. That’s before any advertising or one-off expenses.

That means we need to add 4 paid members per month to break even.

Also, there’s currently zero employees. Just me – making it up as I go. (So your patience has been greatly appreciated!)

The long (and better) answer is this:

In my personal experience, and from others I’ve talked to, we tend to participate in and gain value from things we pay for. Things where we’ve got skin in the game.

Think about using a free app to help you eat healthier versus paying a diet coach to craft meals. I’ve found I tend to get more out of paid memberships in the long run.

Also, you may have noticed there’s no sponsorship deals or advertisers for Braintrust Ag. This community is truly run based on member support.

Why is it one-time fee based?

I’ll refer to the above statement that one-time fees aren’t the best business model. But, I’m tired of monthly subscriptions and I’m sure you are too.

Two other reasons:

1/ The price to join will increase (it already has from $99 to $149) in the future, so I want to reward those early members.

2/ It’s easier to engage in a membership community if you’re NOT worried about a monthly payment happening. After all, the goal is creating a community.

Bonus reason: it’s a small, one-time fee that you get to expense on your Schedule F.

How has the community grown?

I’ll repeat this caveat: I’m making all of this up as I go.

I have no experience in building a membership community and I have even LESS savvy in tech/building things online. 

    • So, I’m amazed & thankful we’ve been able to grow to 270 members since August ‘23.
    • Also, we’ve gone from zero to 3,000+ newsletter subscribers.
    • There’s members from 30+ states and even 4 countries in our growing community.

In the most “Midwest Nice” way possible: I wouldn’t be opposed to you joining us to increase those numbers.

What’s the ultimate goal/future?

The ultimate goal is the same as the current one: meet like-minded ag folks and learn from each other.

Maybe one day we’ll find some benefactor who has deep pockets and an aligned vision to provide a ton of additional products & support, but until then… we’ll continue growing & connecting through this community organically.

What’s the outreach/recruitment strategy?

Until now, this whole, crazy, wonderful community has come about thanks to folks I’ve met primarily through X/Twitter. Sure, there’s other platforms, but they account for a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the X/Twitter connections.

That won’t change, but I am taking a stab at a direct mailer…

I have a significant US-wide snail mail list, and decided to send a “test letter” to 1,000 farmers and ranchers.

Here’s what they’ll receive in the mail:

Now, I’m not sophisticated enough to track the effectiveness of this snail mail campaign like big companies (yet), but I can ask new members where they found out about Braintrust Ag.

If this works I’ll crank up the number of letters sent.

For the record, each letter mailed costs $0.85

Hopefully it works so new members join and we can add their knowledge to the collective group.

I’m of the belief that the more insights and experiences the better. Similar to the old adage of “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

A sincere “Thank You”

I cannot express how thankful I am for all of you members. I’ve met some incredible folks and keep learning a ton from your individual experiences.

Also, I think we’re just scratching the surface of Braintrust Ag’s potential.

So, consider this an open invitation to make wild & crazy suggestions that would benefit all members.

Then, send me those wild & crazy suggestions: info@braintrustag.com

What questions do you have? Feel free to shoot an email, I want to be as transparent as possible with this venture.

And, if you aren’t a member, maybe consider joining or sharing this community with ag people in your life.

With incredible gratitude,

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