The CAFA (Canadian Association of Farm Advisors) Parkland Chapter ended their membership year in late June on a high note. The meeting’s theme was “Why Advisors are Valuable to Farm Families.” Our presenters, ranchers and farmers, shared their first-hand experiences working with advisors on their businesses.
Robert and Karen Ivey, partners in Evergreen Cattle Company, and Terry Aberhart, CEO of Aberhart Farms and Sure Growth Technologies and Managing Partner with Aberhart Ag Solutions, graciously shared their knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Their insights are worth capturing and preserving in writing so that others may learn from their journeys. Here are a few take-aways from their presentations.
1. Have a keen interest and passion – important ingredients to drive success. This sound advice may have been reiterated previously by different people as they pursed their careers. Today, our presenters confirmed this again. If your heart is not in the work you do – whatever it may be – then no matter how hard you try, you will not drive yourself to do better than average. Your passion causes you to lie awake at night, dream about your work, and devise strategies. Living and breathing what you know and love becomes part of your DNA. The fuel -- your interest, passion, and dedication to your work -- are the driving forces of your mission and vision statements. This takes us to the next point.
Robert and Karen Ivey
Evergreen Cattle Company
Aberhart Farms / Sure Growth Technologies
Aberhart Ag Solutions
4. Anticipate the storms, the financial setbacks. You may need to rely on a different strategy. In the farming industry, severe weather conditions and disease infestations can hamper the bottom line. Regroup. Strategize. Persevere. Rely on your mission and vision statements.
5. Know your financial situation. If you are not a number person then linking up with an advisor who can help establish your yearly budgets and analyze the financial data is vital. The Management Trinity has been previously discussed. Generally, people are good at two of the three essentials necessary to carry on a business. These three are finances, marketing, and the hands-on work. Business plans with realistic financial projections are road maps. Robert and Karen had created their business plan with financial projections and asked their banker, “Do you want to come into business with us?” They proved to their business advisors their capability for achieving their business goals with a concrete plan.
6. Engage with other advisors. Advisors help you think and plan realistically. Terry said it best, “You may be blinded by what sounds like a good idea until someone shoots holes in your boat for good reason.” Advisors fill in the gaps with their knowledge and expertise then advise accordingly.
7. Find a way which works for you. “Canned programs” with a step-by-step process do not work for every business family. Two examples are whether to implement an estate freeze or purchase land inside a corporation. The strategy has to be right for you.
8. Keep your business and family affairs separate. Treat your business as “business first” which results in doing what is in the best interest for the business. The Three-Circle Model illustrates that the family business has three unique groups within its structure: the owners (or shareholders), the family, and the business.
To operate a farm or ranch successfully, like any business, you must have a great understanding of all the elements. Our presenters shared the core foundation for any successful business remains unchanged in order to strive, thrive, and survive.
Reflecting on the years when our ancestors first came to Canada, you can see how agriculture has evolved over the years. Breaking new land was first done with horses and plows. Roots were handpicked. Labour was intense and backbreaking. Today caterpillars and heavy discs relieve the strenuous labour. Yet others stressors, which are uncontrollable, remain constant. Weather is one factor.
The benefit of learning from others is hearing about their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Naturally, a person thinks others have it so good until we hear how bad they had it. But their ability to turn their situation into good is reassuring and encouraging. Advisors and mentors help us find the way.