Change is everywhere in agriculture and often everything seems to fluctuate, whether it is markets, trade relationships, weather or family relationships.
Depending on the circumstances, farmers react to change differently, says Heather Watson, Managing Director of Farm Management Canada (FMC). “Some people see it as intrusive and annoying; others see it as an opportunity to harness this change and seize the opportunity.
Managing the challenge of change is the theme of FMC’s annual AgEx conference, which takes place this week in a virtual format. In this interview with Bernard Tobin of RealAgriculture, Watson says that farmers who want to develop and effectively manage change in their businesses need to know where they are, where they can go and how to get there.
Farmers really need to plan to be successful, says Watson. Many, however, get a failing grade when it comes to business planning and success. Watson notes that a recent FMC poll indicates that only 22 percent of farmers have a formal business plan. These farmers say the benefits of planning are many: from profitability to increased confidence, the ability to make tough decisions, family and farm team harmony, and reduced stress and anxiety. .
Watson also points out that 41% of farmers say they are successful without a formal business plan – some farmers think they have a clear vision of how the business should be run and that there is no immediate need to commit to a formal plan. .
But Watson notes that there are many benefits to be had when writing the plan down on paper. “When you put something in writing, it becomes real,” she says, adding that it’s important for everyone on the farm to know how they fit into the plan. It facilitates understanding of future roles and gives everyone a stake in building a vision for the farm. (Story continues after the video.)
A formal business plan is also a key point of reference in stressful situations when decision making becomes unclear. In difficult times, a plan developed with leaders in quieter times can play a critical role in determining the course of the business. Watson adds that business plans can also be used for contingency planning and establishing operating rules and procedures when the business sees an opportunity or faces obstacles. “A business plan can help us determine what we should do if this happens,” she says.
Business plans can also help farmers better manage stress and support mental health. FMC polls show that 88 percent of farmers who follow a business plan say it has helped their peace of mind.
Watson says farmers and agribusiness managers can attend AgEx 2021 for free by visiting agexcellenceconference.ca. The sessions can be watched live during the conference. Recordings of the speakers’ sessions will be available on the website until the end of December 2022.