Today, family farms around the world are facing more challenges and complexities than ever before. Higher input costs, tight markets, an ever-struggling challenge to find and keep high quality employees, and of course tougher competition from growing farms—both corporate and large family farms.
So, how do you stay in the game… or on the farm? You may consider investing in an agricultural consulting coach. Yes, a coach. We’ve all heard of business coaches for business professionals. Why not consider it for your farm business? How do you know a coach is right for you? Let’s consider a few things:
- Do you have a vision? That is, have you defined where you want to be in the future and what you want your farm business to be known for?
- Do you have a mission? What is your plan for achieving your vision? What elements are involved in making your vision reality?
- Do you have an organizational structure? Have you clearly defined roles of owners, managers, supervisors, and workers? Who reports to whom? And how does communication flow up and down from management to workers and back?
- Are you (owners) in every box? That is, are you responsible for all aspects of your business, or have you delegated responsibility to those you have trained and prepared?
- Are you doing what’s best for the farm? Are you making your personnel decisions based on skill sets and abilities, or have you allowed Aunt Gladys to continue doing your bookkeeping long past the time you wanted to switch to managerial accounting farm accounting software?
- Are others doing what’s best for the farm? Are your workers committed to the success of your business? Are they valuable and respected representatives of your family farm and your core values?
- Do you hold yourself and others on the farm accountable? Setting objectives and goals is not the hard part; prioritizing them, defining the action steps to achieve them, and then implementing and following through to achievement is where many fall by the wayside. Having a coach and agricultural consultant means you have a partner in defining and planning, then moving forward, measuring progress, reviewing and revising as needed, and sticking to the program until you ultimately achieve your objectives.
- Do you have a plan? Short-term? Long-term? Sitting down as a family and writing a plan that guides you to achieving your vision/objectives/goals is something few families take time to do. In fact, when families go through the FamilyFarms orientation program, members usually note that sitting together to work on their plans, both short- and long-term, was a first for them. It’s hard to do on farm but becomes so much easier when you are sitting together around a table in a room with the common objective of defining that plan.
- Do you have someone to ask you the tough questions? Who challenges you to think bigger or differently about your business? Does anyone look at your ROI and suggest that you need to re-think buying a new combine? Who suggests to you that owner draws are hurting your business by decreasing your working capital? Would anyone dare suggest you get some additional training in financials, management skills, or human resources? These are the kinds of difficult questions your FamilyFarms coach will ask.
- Are you efficient as you can be? How do you know? What have you benchmarked your business against? What other business owners (with farming operations of similar size) have you spent time with, sharing best practices?
- Is your legacy important to you and your family? If it is, what are you doing to ensure your business will still be viable when your kids are grown and ready to come back and work with you? What about your grandkids? Have you thought that far ahead?
- How are your financials? Have you looked at your historical performance over the past several years to find trends you want to continue or change? How do you compare to other similar businesses? What can you do to improve your financials—ROI, working capital, etc.?
- What is your branding? What message do you wish to convey to prospective landowners, buyers of your products, employees, neighbors, and the public? How are you conveying it, and what plans do you have to expand or improve your communication about your business?
- How do you promote? What efforts do you make to reach out to your community and your target audience? Do you have a website, brochures, and promotional materials?
- If you wish to grow your farm…
- Do you have a plan? Have you done your homework to find out what land is or could become available in the future? Which landowners will be retiring? How much would you like to grow in the next one, three, five, or ten years? Will you buy, lease, merge, or seek investors to obtain land?
- Do you have solid relationships with current landowners? What do you do to express your appreciation for landowners? How often do you communicate with them and by what means? Do you have verbal or written leases? Are you developing relationships with your landowners’ children?
- How do you find and communicate with prospective landowners? Have you identified them? Do you know where to look? How can you communicate your interest in farming their land without appearing too pushy or creating ill feelings with their current tenant?
- Do you have your human resources prepared for growth? Are employee files up to date and in compliance with regulations? Do you have an employee handbook in place that has been communicated with your employees? Are you in compliance with OSHA and other regulations concerning filing of employee information? Are your recruitment, selection, hiring, and firing processes working for you? Do you have a disciplinary process that is clearly defined and used consistently?
- How safe is your farm? What food security measures have you put in place to keep products safe as they are grown, harvested, stored, and transported? Do you use locks on buildings, equipment, fuel shut-off valves, electric shut-off systems, security cameras, and other means to keep your property safe?
- Do you communicate effectively with your employees and other owners? Do you have regular meetings with employees to ensure all are clear about their roles and responsibilities? Do all team members at your business share owner objectives? Is your culture clearly communicated and part of daily life at your business?
Overwhelmed? It’s not hard to be.
You’ve got a farm business to run. The world to feed. A legacy to build. Perhaps it’s time to consider a coach and farm consulting to help you maximize all the skills and expertise that you know you have. You know the answers; let a coach ask the right questions to unearth them.
We’d like to be that resource for you. Here at FamilyFarms Group, we have over a decade of hands-in-the-dirt experience in doing so plus partnered resources that have been supporting the farming industry for 50 years. Click below for a free assessment of where your farm business is now, the obstacles you face, and your goals for the future.