Typically, an advisory team includes all the farm’s partners/ owners, an 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 that everyone has a clear understanding of their role.
Select a meeting place that offers enough space for everyone to fit into comfortably, that’s easy to access and distraction-free. This may or may not be on-farm.
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.
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:
- reviewing previous minutes and actions
- updates on production
- reviewing progress on the strategic plan
- reporting against the budget for the last quarter
- projecting key targets, management practices and decisions for the coming quarter and full year
- discussing new business or opportunities
Solid advice provides direction
For Scott and Jo Buckley, having a team of advisors has provided better direction for their farm business.
The couple are equity partners with Scott’s parents, Kevin and Lin Buckley, on a farm near Hamilton. They milk 1200 cows on 375ha (effective).
Scott says they decided to form a team of advisors after witnessing the effects of the global financial crisis in 2009.
“We always considered the lenders as part of our team but when the crash occurred we felt we were left on our own,” he says. “Up until then we’d always kept everything close to our chest. We realised that to make changes, other people would need to see into our business so they could offer advice and ideas."
Farm advisor Nico Mouton, ex-rural bank manager Bill Donaldson, and accountant Gavin Haddon were brought in to help provide direction for the family business.
The advisory team meets every quarter, with Jo acting as the financial officer and Scott the farm’s managing director.
One week before each meeting, an agenda is sent out to everyone in the group. This includes minutes from the previous meeting, actual and forecast budgets, a progress report, any other financial information, and staff and compliance updates.
“Pretty much every financial decision now goes through the group and we all have an opportunity to discuss it,” says Scott.
“It’s good getting advice from people who see the bigger picture; they see what’s happening outside our farm. It’s been a massive learning curve for Jo and I. We hadn’t had this type of exposure to tougher times and having good people surrounding us and giving good advice has been good for our business.”
Key attributes of a farm management consultant
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.
- Has a view and is willing to express it: a good advisor will consider options and provide you with an objective opinion on your business and ways to improve.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy March 2017