Advice and Support
6 min read
As a dairy farmer, successful management of your business requires guidance and support. This page explains the importance of seeking advice from experts, fellow farmers, and other trusted individuals. Building a support team, such as a farm management consultant, rural banker, and Chartered Accountant, can help in money management, on-farm decisions, and goal-setting. Regular communication and continuous learning are also essential. The page offers information on setting up an advisory team, understanding borrowing from rural lenders, choosing the right farm management consultant, connecting with other farmers, effective communication, and various learning and training opportunities. It serves as a comprehensive guide to enriching your farm's success.
Talk to experts, other farmers and people you trust. Good advice and support can make all the difference because 'she'll be right' does not work when it comes to finances.
We talked to farmers. When it comes to seeking business advice and assistance, here is what they recommend.
Support people can provide an experienced, unbiased perspective and help you understand and plan how to guide your business to your picture of success.
Think of people who can help or give advice on:
Because when you’re head down in the day-to-day running of your business, it can be hard to see things with fresh eyes.
A huge amount of support available in the dairy industry, but how do you go about setting up a team who can support and advise you? Find out how to bring together an advisory team for your business.
Complementary roles - typically, an advisory team includes all the farm’s partners or owners; a Chartered Accountant, farm management consultant and a financial advisor or banker. At times, specialists like lawyers and technical experts may need to be brought in. It’s important everyone clearly understands their role.
Location - select a meeting place offering enough space for everyone to fit into comfortably that’s easy to access and distraction-free. This may or may not be on-farm.
Frequency - meet regularly and on time. Meetings should be scheduled as often as required to monitor the progress toward farm business goals. Typically, this is quarterly or in line with key times on the farming calendar.
Formality and structure - correctly documenting and organising meetings by setting dates in advance, creating an agenda and circulating notes helps keep everyone accountable and maximise the value of your meetings.
Agenda - a well-communicated agenda will keep meetings on-track and clarify each person’s role. Clearly define the purpose and desired outcomes of the meeting, and share this with everyone. Doing so will improve efficiency, set accountability, and keep everyone on the same page. Your agenda should allocate time for:
Borrowing can be a major expense for an agribusiness; you should be prepared to invest time and effort into ensuring you achieve the best possible arrangements to suit your needs and circumstances.
Understanding borrowing money costs and the impact on your business and personal finances will give you peace of mind. Agribusinesses can borrow money from a number of different sources. Some lending institutions specialise in certain types of loans, while some provide a range of financial services in addition to lending money.
With rural lenders or banks, there are three key sets of criteria banks will look at when assessing whether to lend to you or not.
Viability is defined as “an assessment of a client’s ability to consistently maintain adequate levels of gross income to enable them to meet all the necessary expenditure including drawings, tax, debt servicing, principal repayment and plant replacement.”
Financial factors may include:
By understanding how a financier will assess you and your business, you will be more confident to have open and constructive discussions with them and develop a positive relationship with them. This is important, because lending institutions want to have confidence in the people and businesses they do business with.
It’s important to have a great consultant on the team. Here are some attributes to look for.
Integrity and a good reputation - trust, confidentiality and honesty are key characteristics for any relationship.
Technical knowledge across the farm system - look at the consultant’s qualifications, work references, farmer client references, accreditation, and training.
Willingness to work with a wider team and the openness/humility to ask others for help when necessary.
Empathy - understands not only farming but also farmers and rural communities.
Personal skills - an ability to listen well and consider what you’re saying before offering a solution. Having a natural rapport with your consultant will help foster a good working relationship.
Willingness to express their viewpoint - a good advisor will consider options and provide you with an objective opinion on your business and ways to improve.
In addition to having an advisory team, connect with other farmers for advice and support. Seek advice from others who share the same challenges.
Think about people you can relate to and trust. Sometimes only other rural people who share the same challenges can fully understand that aspects of running a farm business, are not like running other businesses.
Attending and contributing to your local seasonal group is another great way to connect, learn and get advice and support. Visit the events section to find seasonal groups near you.
How and how often you communicate with your farm team and stakeholders will vary from farm to farm. Open communication benefits you, your business, farm team, and stakeholders.
Set up regular meetings or phone calls to share key information (e.g. cash management programmes, budgets, production reports).
Getting communication right:
Profitable farmers are often lifelong learners. Top farmers value learning and attend conferences, short-courses, discussion groups, seminars and invest in their future by undertaking formal training.
Many industry groups and service or support organisations offer seminars, workshops, and short-courses to help you grow your business management skills.
Primary ITO, polytechnic institutes and universities offer agribusiness and farm management training that will help you to succeed in farming. For more information on training providers follow these links:
As a dairy farmer, how do you go about choosing an accountant who truly understands your specific needs and challenges? How can you take full advantage of their knowledge and expertise? And what are some common mistakes rural accountants see farmers making, and on the flipside, things farmers are often good at in this area? Answering those questions and more in this episode is Nigel McWilliam, chartered accountant and director at MBS Advisors in Morrinsville, Waikato. Nigel is a dairying specialist accountant and is also a director shareholder of a 1200-cow farm in North Otago.