Farmer Well-Being and Sustainable Futures
It's good to see initiatives around farmer well-being becoming accepted as "business as usual" for the primary sector. Business, like life in general is never easy. While the nature of the challenges will change, the reactions required to achieve sustainability, job satisfaction and healthy, wealthy businesses remain the same. These include developing supportive relationships and a personal / professional life that ensures interests outside the business that mean more balanced perspectives.
Preparing to Bounce Back
Right now trading conditions for New Zealand dairying are as challenging as I have seen. This sustained downturn combined with a series of disruptive international events are contributing to real volatility. This environment requires businesses to put even more focus on controlling their controllables while having the wisdom to "accept the things they can't change".
Lessons on Succession
In recent months I've been involved in a number of projects where the first steps in succession management have been put in place without a fully thought out plan to guide the process. This has resulted in fragile relationships and ownership structures that are not as effectively aligned with the long-term strategy as they could be.
Resilience - Embracing Problems and Resolving Conflict
It takes real courage and commitment to deliberately choose a role that requires a full-time focus on problem solving and conflict resolution. However focusing on these two aspects of business leadership offers the greatest reward by underpinning business resilience -- the key characteristic of sustainability for long-term success in the modern environment.
Risk Management and a Resilient Plan
Risk management is an aspect of strategic planning that many farmers are yet to fully use to its potential. It is something that can offer considerable advantage through greater perspective around events that might otherwise simply be a cause for worry.
High Trust Team Leadership
I’ve recently been working on a number of projects that have reinforced my view that developing a high trust team culture relies heavily on proactive evaluation of individual performance and team relationships. The risk from taking perceived harmony for granted must be eliminated to maintain the highest levels of motivation and morale. This is especially important given the challenges of volatile milk prices and pressures of a new farming season.
Thinking About the Dairy Downturn
The severity of the recent change in Dairy fortunes has certainly been a left-field event. How such a dramatic change has emerged without warning and how businesses can best respond is something I've been thinking about deeply over the last few weeks.
Embracing the Unexpected
Recent events confirm unexpected change and volatility have become the norm for farming. They highlight the importance of farming operations getting better at measuring the impact of new scenarios for proactive risk management and enhanced business resilience.
Resilience and the Family Farm Business
This current dairy downturn presents another opportunity for farming couples and family businesses to find a way prosper despite what may lie ahead. While farm performance, cost control and profitability will be important, success will start with fostering and protecting quality teamwork and relationships. This is what will build stamina for a sustainable future.
So what are the ingredients for resilience that will keep these farming operations adaptable and agile?
Pita Alexander Conference Paper
Many will be familiar with the insightful commentaries and presentations on Agribusiness issues from Christchurch-based specialist farm accountant Pita Alexander. Pita has a unique ability to crystallise the challenges and dynamics facing farming businesses and offer practical solutions that remove (rather than go around) obstacles.
Pita has generously agreed that we can make two of his conference presentations recently delivered to various industry groups available through our website.
Success with Staff Selection
Recently I've been involved in a number of projects supporting staff selection -- some prompted by client frustration at modest response to promotion of roles. The process is a challenging one for those in the staff market so here are some reminders about what’s needed to attract the best and reliably evaluate their capabilities, attitudes and personalities.
People, Personalities & Performance
As I write this I've just completed a most enjoyable speaking tour in Western Australia. One of the topics my workshops explored in depth was how farmers and team leaders can gain a deeper understanding of how their people are wired. This challenges them to better understanding the combination of experience, qualifications, ethnicity, beliefs and personality they and their staff bring to a working relationship.
Performance Management - Working Smarter not Harder
Whether motivated by profitability or a drive for continuous improvement, growing staff productivity is an on-going challenge facing all businesses. It is especially relevant given the current pressures on dairy returns. With staff costs around 20% of operating expenses, productivity is an obvious area to look at to achieve efficiency.
Volatility - here we go again!
The recently announced reductions in milk prices are a reminder of volatility as our constant companion. As market corrections materialise they highlight the importance of effective budgeting systems and how fundamental timely monitoring and forecasting are to profits and sustainability.
Self-Directing and Self-Correcting Teamwork
A number of my recent assignments have involved helping teams to define their values and culture so they can be more self-directing - and as a result, self-correcting.
Focusing on this is particularly relevant as the new dairy season commences and induction of new personnel occurs. It requires effort and patience but will be well rewarded when compared to the negatives of a "wait-and-see" leadership approach that usually means problems occur when peak workloads put stress on people and systems.
Mentors and the Family Farming Business
An important challenge for all family businesses is how to develop the capabilities of the next generation -- especially if they are participate in its future ownership and management.
To be effective, leaders in the modern business needs to focus on three key areas. These include harnessing changes in technology, adopting best practice management techniques and more sophisticated systems to manage people as the business grows.
Professionals, Diligence & Delegation
2014 has seen a high demand start to my professional year with a significant number of sizeable assignments embarked on for new and existing clients. This reflects a combination of a buoyant Dairy economy and more willingness for top operators make themselves accountable to best practice by putting key aspects of their businesses under the spotlight.
Negotiation - Letting it Happen!
I've been privileged to be involved in a number of negotiations for sale and purchase of some substantial farming businesses in recent times. It's always satisfying to see "win-win" achieved and witness the inevitable differences of expectations, opinions and negotiation styles managed to advantage.
Consolidation & Sustainability
The current optimism around dairy fuelled by positive milk prices is likely to offer new opportunities for businesses to expand. While it is important growth options are constantly evaluated, experience has taught me that new investment should only occur after careful consideration so an appropriate balance between growth and consolidation is maintained.
Enduring Principles for Succession Planning
Succession planning has become a significant growth area in my professional activities.....
More Strategies for Succession
Succession planning for farmers has been thrust into the spotlight recently after bank research that by far the majority of New Zealand farming.
Volatility Planning and Progress
Those who have been around a while know that one of the certainties of business life is change.
Volatility or Victory
Current optimism from forecasts of very strong product prices across the primary sector contrasts starkly with the human and economic consequences of local and international events
Retirement Planning - when is enough, enough?
Many of my recent consulting assignments continue to be focused succession planning — especially regarding management of the transition to...
Succession Planning – a process not an event
In recent months I have had a heavy involvement in succession planning in various forms for rural businesses.
Refocus not Re-cession
2009 is certainly living up to its forecast as a year of change and challenge. Recession has featured in so many forecasts it has developed a life of its own.
Motives then Action
Continued negative trends for the global economy and their downstream effects on New Zealand and Australia’s economies and the dairy sector have.
Strategy, Change and Succession
The only thing that seems to be constant these days is change.
Catching the Bull
Sharing the gains - sustainably
The bullish sentiments around dairy products for 2008 and beyond are welcome
news for all.
Where There’s a Will – There’s a Way
I have recently been involved in a number of projects — both personal and professional — that got me thinking about the importance of a clear plan to manage succession and transfer of assets between generations.
Capital vs Profit – Keeping a Healthy Tension
It’s the tensions between various dimensions of a business that offer it diversity and opportunity for the future.
Who Gives and Who Takes?
I’ve been busy lately reviewing share milking arrangements and salaries at all levels.
To judge how well a farming business is equipped to capture opportunity into the future, I’ve learnt to ask these three questions:
Success with Succession
Perhaps it’s a comment on advancing years for me and the clients I work with or may be it is symptomatic of a greater focus on asset management for most of the businesses I serve.
Conceive then Achieve
I’m intrigued by recent New Zealand media comment on the supposed increased difficulty of achieving first farm ownership for those who want to graduate through the industry to own their own business.
Delegation not Abdication
With the pressures of calving and mating over for my New Zealand clients there’s time available for reviewing performance and looking at structures for next season.
No Shortage of Opportunity
One of the benefits of working in agriculture is that there is a seasonal pattern that generally yields a less pressured time at some part of the year.
The Answer Comes from Leftfield
Experience in my own business and consulting to others has convinced me that creative thinking is critical to getting where you want to go – faster.
Committed or Complacent?
Recently I’ve been writing business plans for some quite established operations.
Stand Out from the Crowd
When I look back on the last 16 years consulting I realise that in part I’ve made a career out of adapting recognised management systems in industry for
application in progressive farming operations.
Growing Gains or Growing Pains
If what’s has gone across my desk or down my telephone and email connections over the last six months is anything to go by, it definitely proves the obvious.
Riding the Profit Cycle
It is rare for a consultant to recommend that farmers invest in cameras.
Change Management in Adversity
My recent tour of United Kingdom provided a fascinating insight into farming under pressure.