Growing pains


Do you know what I am seeing a lot of lately? Growing pains in farm businesses.

What do I mean by this? Businesses which have potentially dramatically increased in size in a decade, but are still basically using the same tools and systems to make decisions and get the work done.

In the worst examples, the business growth has come with little additional labour. This is partly due to ongoing labour shortages in ag and has been exacerbated by age. As our businesses grow, we also get older and this impacts on our ability to do longer hours. You are probably smarter, but you may possibly be slower. Farm growth means less people in the community, so volunteering responsibilities are also increasing.

What if this is you?

Farm Operations – When it comes to on farm operations it is really good to surround yourself with like minded peers, connections made online can be really helpful. Consultants or advisors that include group events in their programs that allow for peer to peer learning are excellent. Aim to find a group where you are in the bottom 50% so you have more scope to learn and grow.

Farm Office – What may have been a few hours, generally at night, once or twice a month has turned into a big job. You can outsource some of the role, take on a virtual assistant or re-invest in the role as job.

What does re-investing in the role mean? Stop seeing it as a chore and set aside good working hours both for the task and for process improvement. Make sure your IT systems and your physical office space is reflective of the job you are doing. There are only so many hours in the day, so perhaps some changes have to be made to other areas of your life to fit in the bigger role (eg less off farm work, less child caring responsibilities, less in paddock responsibilities, less contracting)

Business Decision Making – There is a lot going on! The complexity of larger operations, the integrated nature of marketing, logistics and weather variability make this a lot harder. Decisions made with the whole farm team can really help with this as a second or third perspective is really useful. Thinking in our head can work for some simple decisions, but when they become more complex talking it out (hearing yourself think) and writing things down (a spreadsheet or a notebook) might be more useful.

Investing in skill development is something that we readily accept early in our farming career and often families insist on it as a right to entry (get a trade/go to uni/get a job before you come back)

As our farm businesses grow and our roles change, we need to continue to commit to skill development, especially at a personal growth level.

And the final management strategy for farm business growth?

rest and recovery

It is so important.

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