Why Farmers hire external consultants
Running a business can be challenging, just look at the differing areas, roles and tasks that need to be completed in order to succeed on a daily basis. These tasks cross-over from accounting to human resources, technical support, financial advice, work health and safety, even project management.
Consultants can bring their skills and expertise to your business, thanks to their education and experience. Most of the time a farmer will hire a business consultant to supplement existing staff, influence change, train workers as well as provide a different perspective in order to reach their business goals.
Hiring a consultant to help your business can come with a range of benefits when you choose them wisely. Consultants can improve performance and efficiencies, provide support to overcome challenges, grow revenue and provide the support to help your business thrive.
Many agribusinesses are family businesses, not large corporations – although there are quite a few of these in agriculture now. A family business isn’t likely to have a role for someone just to manage health and safety. Compare this to other industries.
Statistics tell us that in most countries agriculture is one of, if not the most dangerous industry to work in. It makes you wonder, why is this the case when you look at industries like major construction and mining, who seem to be doing better in this area yet doing comparatively hazardous work. Is it the differences in the work that results in such differences in fatalities and incidents? We don’t think so.
Construction and mining generally have teams of people focusing purely on health and safety. So how can a small family business possibly compare to this? Even with help such as a consultant or industry-group advisor, it is a huge challenge for family farms.
Where can a consultant help?
As mentioned at the start, there are a wide variety of business consultants that could support your agricultural business:
Human Resources consulting
HR consultants offer support and guidance when it comes to recruiting new workers and retaining your current workforce. They may also assist with day-to-day tasks such as administration, worker training, compliance, payroll, performance management as well as developing revising and implementing policies and procedures.
Operations consultants are there to provide support and improve efficiency within your value chain. This drive for continuous improvement in day-to-day tasks and processes generally includes developing and implementing targeted strategies or service delivery models, focusing on cost reduction, customer experience, supply chain logistics, procurement, ultimately optimizing business performance.
Focusing on the financial health of your business, financial consultants can assist with financial planning, investment decisions, asset and debt management, provide advice on taxes, daily expenses and even retirement plans.
Strategy and Management consulting
These types of business consultants help your business through an array of actions, but ultimately their goal is to help you scale your business, whether that is by acquisition or driving new revenue. Consultants that specialize in Strategy and Management can assist with restructuring your organizational model, a business merger or act as a stand in for management during transitional periods of change.
Since succession planning is deemed a sensitive topic, and family are usually involved, it can be beneficial to include a non-biased, third party to your discussions. A good plan creates a smoother transition when the time comes and reduces the possibility of conflict. There are a variety of succession planning documents you can create that determines how your farming business will continue into the future.
Before you hire a consultant for health and safety
There are plenty of options for farm owners and operators to seek advice including industry groups, safety consultants, government regulators, Google. Industry groups are basically the equivalent of unions for farmers – you pay to be a member and the industry body advocates on behalf of the industry. They generally don’t represent the workers though. Industry groups offer good safety advice, especially those who recruit consultants from farming backgrounds who have a comprehensive understanding of farming, and what it means to live, breath and work in agriculture.
Too often I’ve seen safety consultants and advisors with an impressive resume but no farming background giving advice about compliance which can be difficult to incorporate for the average family farm. It is not suggested compliance with the laws is anything but mandatory, but how you go about it can and should suit your operations.
For example, most safety legislation is founded on the basic principle of consultation between the employer and the workforce on all things to do with safety. This makes perfect sense. Ask those doing the work what might be of concern to them, what could cause a problem, and then decide on the best way forward. But how does the average family farm do this? And even more, how do you prove it?
I can’t imagine a family is going to write minutes from a conversation at the dinner table or a chat while working in the workshop when they might have that conversation. For many farming businesses, decisions are made jointly and without any kind of ‘consultation’ in a formal sense. I’m yet to meet a family farm that has a health and safety committee in place.
The difficulty is if something were to happen which seriously injured someone, or worse, the government regulators will want to see what a farmer did about safety before (and after) the incident. This means even a family farm should probably have safety documentation in place, whether that’s a folder from a consultant or advisor, or a software program. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to fit the needs of that business. Having nothing in place, relying on people to remember who said what and when is the biggest risk to a farming business when it comes to demonstrating compliance.
Topics: Find a Consultant
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Originally published 15 November, 2021.