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Your Farm Business

Is it time to formalize your farm management team?

December 31, 2010
From Wayne Schoper and Rich Baumann, South Central College

We all recognize that farming is changing, and we sure don't manage our farms just like Grandpa and Dad did when we were going up.

I remember my dad not trusting anyone to know his business affairs and being very close to the vest when talking to anyone about his costs and especially his income. He was pretty sure that the best banker was the one who asked the fewest questions and asked for the least amount of paperwork. He also was ready to make his own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. Dad based many of his decisions on the articles in the latest issues of "The Farmer" and "Successful Farming" magazines. Once in a great while he would even visit with the County Agent.

Do you find yourself trying to manage too many tasks and not having the expertise or time to get everything done? If so, you may not be alone. With the increasing complexity of today's agriculture, more farmers are realizing the value of having professional ag business and financial experts assist with making business decisions.

Successful farm operation and management is a very big job, requiring almost daily decision making. Those decisions impact our future success and our ability to support our family's needs. In farm management, we see that many of our more successful operators have already identified individuals who they rely on to help make important decisions. Those farmers are one step away from putting the frame work and structure together to form a formal management team. The management team is a valuable tool that will help you make the most of their expertise.

To formalize your management team, identify the types of individuals you would like on your management team. A few suggestions might include: legal council, tax advisor, lender, crop consultant, livestock consultant, marketing consultant and financial consultant (often the FBM Instructor). Next, select an individual from each area that you have confidence in and trust. The members of your management team may change over time, as the needs of the farm business change.

The next step is to talk with each person and ask them if they are willing to serve on your management team. Then bring them together for a team meeting, perhaps as a noon lunch meeting, where you buy the lunch. Plan the agenda for the meeting and prepare handouts. You may ask someone from your team to act as a facilitator for the meeting. Share your history, your mission statement, goals for the balance of your farming career, your transition or exit plan along with financial information. Discuss what you see as the strengths and weaknesses of your farm business. You may even ask each member of the team to speak briefly about the part they play in your operation. Look for ways to involve your family in this meeting, especially your spouse and any family members actively involved in the farm business. The goal is to get this group working together for the best interests of your operation, because all team members share a common goal of making you successful. At the conclusion of this meeting, schedule the next meeting. Plan to meet as a team at least semi-annually.

If you are interested in putting together your management team and would like some further ideas and advice, contact Rich or Wayne, your local Farm Business Management instructors in the New Ulm and Sleepy Eye areas.



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