Like many producers in North America, you may have recently come back from a vacation during the January–February slow time. If it was not a seed supplier trip arranged by the company, you and your family likely did a certain amount of planning of details, including where to go, where to stay, how to get there, where to eat, what to do while there, what to bring, who to tell, and a host of related topics. You had to find the answers to all these questions ahead of time. To put it mildly, there’s some preparation involved. If you don’t put forth that effort, it’s not much of a vacation, and the family won’t be happy. As they say, garbage in, garbage out.
Many producers also met or spoke with some, most, or all of their landowners (and perhaps a few prospective landowners) during the last two to three months. If this includes you, did you plan ahead with answers to these questions?
- What was the objective of the meeting? Perhaps it’s to introduce a flex lease; to build rapport with a family member you don’t yet know well; to discuss capital improvements the land needs and get approval to move forward; to lower the rental rate by at least $20 per acre; or to educate the landowner on new farming practices you plan to implement. As they say, start with the end in mind. Knowing the objective of the meeting will help you decide what to say and how to say it.
- Did you arrange for all the necessary people to attend the meeting? One of the biggest mistakes in planning is not having all decision makers about farm management present for important meetings. A business partner, spouse, or other stakeholder may have additional questions and concerns, and their attendance may help eliminate confusion, conflict, or delays in coming to an agreement.
- Did you have specific questions to ask each landowner written out and ready to go? This demonstrates professionalism and helps keep you on track. You should have more questions prepared than you’ll be able to ask. Then, as the conversation unfolds, you can pick and choose the ones that are most appropriate/relevant to ask.
- Did you bring relevant information? This might be an article, an expert report, or documented proof, either to generally educate the landowner’s or to support a point you are making.
- Had you defined the precise information you needed from the landowner? What are all the specific bits of information you need from the landowner in order to proceed? You should always be prepared to ask for whatever information you need to understand the full implications on your farm business of any action that the landowner might take.
- Did you have answers prepared for tough questions you could anticipate? Being prepared for the tough questions gives you confidence. Consider all the possible questions that the landowner might ask you, and prepare 2–3 main points to answer each. Your answers should be planned—but not “canned.”
- Did you talk with someone to help you strategize the meeting? As they say, two heads are better than one. FamilyFarms Group can help you prepare for such meetings. Who are you talking with for advice on landowner meetings?
If you couldn’t answer at least five of these questions, then this article is written for you. As it’s coming out of your mouth is not the time to think about what you are going to say. In short, never wing it. Never. Wing. It. If you don’t put forth the effort to prepare, it likely won’t be much of a meeting, and it may be harder to keep the landowner happy over the long term. Landowners are too important and too difficult to replace; don’t treat meetings with them flippantly.
It’s been said that preparation is the key to success. It’s as important for meetings with landowners as it is for your vacation.
FamilyFarms Group’s agriculture consulting services can help you prepare for your meetings with current and prospective landowners. Be sure you are putting your best foot forward by preparing thoroughly with items such as templates, checklists, lists of questions for every situation, proposals, processes, and marketing materials. We have those items all ready to go! Why not give us a call today at (618) 372-3000.