When challenging issues need to be discussed, like succession planning or strategic business direction, an independent, skilled facilitator is essential. If the meeting agenda includes topics with the potential to cause conflict, or spark an emotional discussion, it is safer and easier for all parties to involve a facilitator. Meetings held with a trained facilitator are more productive, efficient and have far greater chance of maintaining and protecting relationships where difficult topics are on the table.
Farm budgeting is like a game plan and score sheet for a football game. You have a plan for the game, after each quarter you check the scores and if required you change your plan. Running a business without a budget is like playing a game of football without knowing the score until the game is over — by then it’s too late to adjust your game strategy. Progressive businesses fine tune their strategy throughout the season and year, communicate regularly with their bank and seek advice early if cashflow projections look tight.
Business performance analysis is about figuring out what part of the business is most limiting profit potential. The first place to look is the high level key performance ratios (e.g. return on assets), then filtering down to key business ratios (e.g. turnover, direct costs, overhead costs, finance costs) and following through to the more detailed performance ratios (e.g. DSE per labour unit, machinery costs per hectare) or production ratios (e.g. tonnes per hectare, kilograms per head, kilograms per hectare per 100mm of rain). Starting from the top down, narrows the search to finding out what aspect of the business can be improved to have the greatest impact on profitability.
Sometimes a bank manager can be uncomfortable with a business position and start dictating cashflow options, or at the other extreme they might be too comfortable and take advantage of our loyalty. In either situation, consultants can assist in reviewing your situation and, if appropriate, draw up a proposal to restructure your finance. This can be done with your existing lender or a new lender and doesn’t necessarily mean switching banks, but it can provide you with more knowledge and negotiation tools knowing what’s available.
Applying for finance or changing banks can be a daunting job. Engaging the assistance of a consultant who regularly carries out such activities can streamline the task. A more professional application can also give you a better chance of impressing the bank by providing all the information they are likely to need in your initial proposal. Working with your consultant to be adequately prepared before approaching the bank demonstrates you are proactive and on-top of your business, making your business a more attractive proposition.
New business ventures require thorough analysis, which includes financial modelling of how they might operate. In particular, financial modelling aims to provide projected outcomes if key variables are altered, especially where multiple businesses or stakeholders are involved. Considerations such as matching risk with reward, valuing money over time and including non-cash returns make for valuable analysis.
Commonly, the first step in ‘opportunity analysis’ is to figure out if we can afford the investment when really the first step should be to determine if it’s profitable or even beneficial to the business. It may turn out the initial opportunity can be tweaked to become more profitable, then we work out if and how the business can afford it. Likewise, a consultant can also help you analyse a number of opportunities to determine which is likely to be the most profitable and the best fit for your business and your skills.
We often hear the saying that “diversification is key in farming” but these days enterprises require significant investment to operate efficiently, so we can’t afford to make decisions based on sayings. Consultants can help you analyse what each enterprise is contributing to the business’ bottom-line profit and determine the possible outcomes if any of them were expanded, contracted or stopped. In the cases where enterprises play an integral part in making another enterprise work, we can also look at different ways to achieve the same integral role with increased bottom-line profit.
The nature of farm succession tends to be complex and only occurs once for each generation. Most farming businesses lack experience or proficiency in dealing with complex, and often emotive, discussions around farm business succession. An experienced and emotionally intelligent consultant will have worked through numerous succession plans and be able to share with you the many and varied options available for a positive outcome for all parties involved. A consultant’s role is to assess the business’ current position, consider the expectations and concerns of all stakeholders, analyse the feasibility of various succession options and coordinate with the solicitor and accountant to document and implement the plan.
It is important to appreciate the difference between compliance vs management when it comes to financial reporting. Our tax financials are prepared for the sole purpose of complying with the Australian tax law. While this is a necessity, they need to be adjusted to reflect the realistic management performance of our business to enable us to make informed business decisions. Using industry-specific accounting software such as Practical Systems Cash Books or Agrimaster enables us to record the necessary tax details and generate reports useful for monitoring performance and management decisions.
Gaining the perspective of someone outside your business is a valuable component to strategic business planning. A consultant can help you see your business differently and help develop or refine your strategy to achieve your business goals. Unlike a typical, static business plan primarily based on past performance and current resources, a strategic business plan uses that information to leverage the business’ opportunities to progress.
From time to time government or industry funded grants are available to help farming businesses through tough times, or to invest in increasing the sustainability of our natural resources. Applying for these grants can be daunting and time consuming if you are not familiar with the process.
An experienced consultant can streamline the application process with templates for budgets and business plans and an existing understanding of the information required to complete the forms. Primary Business has helped farming businesses gain up to $25,000 per year for five years through successful applications for grants and subsidies.
A consultant’s role is not to take control of your business, it’s to help you better understand your business so you can make well-informed, calculated decisions. Advice and recommendations are par for the course, but a skilled consultant supports owners and managers to make better decisions, based on a sound understanding of their business. This starts with understanding the financial side of the business and implementing systems to measure, monitor and manage the business.
Ideally we’d like to diffuse a volatile situation and reach agreement before mediation is required — but life isn’t always ideal. A consulting mediator ensures all parties involved understand their position and are comfortable to discuss options to move forward or reach agreement. A consulting mediator provides an independent person who understands the farming situation, but can bring new ideas and possibilities to the table for discussion.
With experience in managing the GRDC’s National Grain Storage Extension project across numerous funding cycles, Primary Business can lend support to, or manage, projects on your behalf. From smaller short-term projects to more significant, long-term projects, requiring progress reporting and contractor coordination.