A mini MBA for farmers applications for 2015 program open
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A ‘mini MBA’ for farmers – applications for 2015 leading farm management program open

March 18, 2015


Often coined the ‘mini MBA’ for farmers, the Rabobank Executive Development Program, which gives leading farmers from across New Zealand and Australia the opportunity to enhance their business management skills and take their enterprises forward, is open for applications for its 2015 course intake.  

Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell says primary producers with a thirst for knowledge and ambition to drive results back into their farm business should apply for the program. 

"The business of agricultural enterprise has become increasingly complex, with farm owners and managers needing to draw equally on their farm knowledge and professional business skills," Mr Russell said.  

"The Rabobank Executive Development Program is a management program tailored to primary production to help strategic thinkers – leading farmers – develop and harness opportunities for their business, expanding their knowledge around key foundations of management, strategy, and people."  

Running since 1999, the program covers all aspects of rural enterprise management to help drive sustainable business growth, including strategic goal setting, business planning, negotiation and people management.  

Simon Saunders who graduated from the Executive Development Program in 2014, said the program was the catalyst for his "change in mindset", which has had positive ramifications for his business.  

"In the past, I was very ‘production-driven’ – with a strong focus on stocking rates – and while that remains important, I have shifted my mindset to be more ‘profit-driven’ and am actively implementing strategies to lift the profitability of each stocking unit," Mr Saunders said.  

Mr Saunders, who runs the family farming business near Lumsden in northern Southland, has doubled the size of his business over the past eight years to run 10,000 stocking units. The main enterprise is prime lambs, but there is also a focus on dairy heifer grazing, beef and forestry. 

"The program gave me the skills and impetus to pull together a strategic business plan which has become the blueprint for our business. It sets out both our short and long-term goals and action plans of how these will be achieved," he said.  

"Since returning from the program mid-last year, we have implemented our short-term goals and are starting to see some very positive results. We have put a cap on our stocking rates for the next three years, and are focusing on capitalising on our stock, rather than carrying more stock."  

Mr Saunders has been increasing the area sown to forage crops enabling him to finish the lambs (up from 80 per cent) and he is also implementing feed budgets to maximise grass usage over the winter. 

Mr Saunders said another key learning from the program was to work more ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ the business – something that "hit home" with Mr Saunders having many off-farm commitments. 

"We have recently restructured the roles for our staff and promoted our senior shepherd to stock manager," he said.  

"This has been a big transition and a big change for me personally as I have been managing all the stock for the past 10 years. But it has been a good step for our business, and has given me time to focus on our overall strategic direction, off-farm investments and external management positions."  

Mr Saunders is chair of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, which operates the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and is also a committee member of the Beef and Lamb NZ Meat and the Future Monitor Farm Program in Southland.  

Holding board positions and managing staff in his business, Mr Saunders said the emphasis around ‘understanding your personality and leadership style’ was an invaluable component of the program.  

"I learnt a lot about myself and understanding different communication and personality styles. And it challenged me to look at what’s important and what I am good at and not so good at," he said. 

Running a family operation in conjunction with his wife, Annabel, Mr Saunders said it was important that she could attend some of the program as part of the ‘partners program’.  

"It gave Annabel an understanding of what I’d been doing, and put us both on the same page in terms of where we are driving our business," he said.  

Mr Saunders said the opportunity to network with 34 like-minded farmers and discuss and debate ideas was also beneficial.  

"I gained a wider view of agriculture, and in particular, it gave me an insight into how they do things in Australia," Mr Saunders said.  

While Mr Saunders was unable to attend the recent Alumni event which was held in the North Island and was open to all past participants of program (of which there are nearly 900 across New Zealand and Australia), he is looking forward to ‘tapping’ into this network and continuing his learning into the future.  

Applications for Rabobank’s 2015 Executive Development Program are open until Friday 29 May 2015, with applicants accepted from across a range of commodities and geographical locations in New Zealand and Australia. Held in Sydney, the first module runs from 16 - 21 August 2015, with the second module taking place in July of next year.  

Producers interested in an application form or any further information on the Rabobank Business Management Programs should visit www.rabobank.co.nz/bmp or contact Rabobank Business Programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on +61 2 8115 4139 or email nerida.sweetapple@rabobank.com. 

Rabobank New Zealand & Australia is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world's leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 115 years' experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 41 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 10 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1600 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand & Australia is one of New Zealand's leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region's food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout New Zealand & Australia.

Media contacts:
Denise Shaw
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: +61 2 8115 2744 or +61 439 603 525 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com

Jess Webb
Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: +61 7 3115 1832 or +61 418 216 103
Email: jess.webb@rabobank.com
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