Tuesday, December 6, 2016

AgEx Conference

President David Sibbald and I had the pleasure of representing Canadian Angus at Farm Management Canada’s Agricultural Excellence Conference, AgEx, in Calgary November 22–24. The theme for the conference was Plan and Prosper: Set the Course for Farm Success. Canadian Angus was pleased to sponsor this conference, and we wanted to share some of the highlights with you. 

AgEx attracted nearly 200 delegates from across the agriculture industry: primary producers, advisors, academics, associations, corporations and government. All of these varied perspectives made this conference different from your “typical” beef conference.

Tina found Manitoba Angus producer Steven Ardiel
at AgEx
At the start of the conference we were introduced to a study called “Making Dollars and Sense—Measuring the Tangible Benefits of Farm Business Management Practices on Canadian Farms”. The "dollars and sense survey" revealed that the top seven things Canadian farmers do for farm business management are:

  1.   Ongoing skills development, lifelong learning
  2.   Business decisions made using accurate financial data
  3.   Seek the help of business advisors/consultants
  4.   Have a written business plan, follow it, review it annually
  5.   Know, monitor your cost of production and what it means for your profits
  6.   Assess risks and have a plan to manage and mitigate risk
  7.   Use a budget and financial plan to monitor financial position and options

As was pointed out in this presentation, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Another of our favourite quotes from the morning came from Farmers Advanced Risk Management Company (FARMCo) founder John De Pape: "Hope is not a marketing strategy."

This slide illustrates why farming is as much a lifestyle choice
as it is a business or career choice.

There was an excellent panel discussion on Managing Risk in Agriculture: How Can We Confront Change with Confidence? Richard Stamp owns and operates Stamp Farms and Stamp Seeds at Enchant, AB. He shared how his top 5 risks change when he looks at them from a perspective of traditional thinking versus one of futuristic thinking:

Fellow panelist Scott Ross, Director of Business Risk Management and Farm Policy at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was the first person to give the advice "Find people who are smarter than you". This became a common theme at the conference: seek experts and assistance to help in areas where you lack skill and/or knowledge. He also recommended continuous learning. He was also the one to ask the question, how does the industry get ahead of public trust issues? We know that this is a huge problem but no one has the magic answer to this question yet.

The third panelist David Sullivan left us with two very important pieces of advice:
     1.  Do accrual accounting.
     2.  Actually look at it and use it with benchmarks.
For many people, that ties back to Scott's advice to find people who are smarter than you.

President David and I had to split up for the Young Farmers versus the Young at Heart “bear pit” exercise as one of us is under age 41 and one of us is over. A couple of good tools were shared at the Young at Heart session that we wanted to share. Young farmers were encouraged to send a letter. Suggested phrases to use include:

  • Feel strongly that by (pursuing, implementing, etc.) then describe what change you want to see
  • Bullets listing tangible, financial, family harmony, etc. benefits of the change. Be specific and measurable not subjective.
  • Your commitment—what specific action are you going to take to demonstrate your commitment?

This letter needs to have an accompanying 30/60/90 day action plan. The next 30 days should be task focused to keep things moving. The next 60 days should be focused on planning and be specific to both the organization/operation and to yourself. The next 90 days should be focused on strategic planning and the big picture.

Day 2 offered break-out sessions. Key takeaways from these include:
  • Without a plan, the two levels of government become the biggest beneficiaries of your estate
  • If two people at a board room table are always in agreement, one of them is unnecessary
  • When you are planning for succession, remember that one day your buyer will sell too
  • Are your marketing goals measurable?
  • Do you have a written marketing plan?

The ultimate goal, no matter how you choose to make your living,
is to find your sweet spot.

These are some of our highlights and the resources that we thought were worth sharing. We encourage those of you who use Twitter to search the conference hash tag #AgExConf16 for more insights and discussion. 

Farm Management Canada’s website has many resources for producers in all industries including strategic and business planning, marketing, human resource management and succession planning. The organization is a national umbrella for farm business management activity.

AgEx will move to Ottawa next year, November 21-23. There are also FMC events across the country throughout the year as well as webinars. 

We'd love to hear from you if you have questions.

Posted by Tina Zakowsky
Feedback: tzakowsky@cdnangus.ca