Farmers to focus on business management skills - Rabobank
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2018 “year for farmers to focus on business management skills” – Rabobank CEO

While 2018 is shaping up as another positive year for New Zealand agriculture, farmers’ business management skills will be put to the test as they are called on to make key decisions on the future direction of their business, Rabobank New Zealand CEO Todd Charteris has cautioned the industry.

Announcing the opening of applications for this year’s Rabobank Business Management Programs, Mr Charteris said the bank was expecting a strong performance from New Zealand’s major agricultural sectors in 2018 with increased capital availability, making it a year in which farmers would be required to make important decisions.

Tough calls will need to be made by farmers on where they direct improved cash-flow and how they position their businesses for markets access and off-shore growth,” Mr Charteris said. And with these key decisions looming, it’s critically important for farmers to have strong business management skills to enable them to choose the best long-term strategy for their business.

Rabobank’s two annual Business Management Programs the Farm Managers Program (FMP) for up-and-coming farmers and the Executive Development Program (EDP) for experienced business owners or senior managers are designed to equip primary producers with the building blocks to take their business to the next level.

Mr Charteris said the programs brought leading New Zealand and Australian farmers together in week-long modules to learn from leading experts in major aspects of business management including strategic business planning, negotiation, financial management, risk management, communication, innovation and ag tech, and how these can be applied directly to their farm businesses.

“To be successful in today’s rapidly changing environment, farmers need a wide array of skills and the ability to think strategically,” he said.

Participants on the programs are challenged to look past the operational aspects of their business and critically assess their own management style and the strategic direction of their farming operation. Graduates come away with a whole raft of new skills and an understanding of how they can improve their management performance and evolve their businesses for future success.

Mark Tapley, a graduate of the 2017 Farm Managers Program, said he decided to apply for the FMP on the advice of a neighbour who had recently completed the EDP.

“I was on the look-out for a course as I wanted to expand my skill-set and ensure I was doing all I could to add value to the deer farm where I work. I’d heard good things about the FMP and decided to apply after speaking to a neighbour up the road who said he’d taken a lot from the Rabobank EDP program he’d just completed,” he said.

Mr Tapley is a manager on his stepfather’s privately-owned stud deer farm in South Canterbury which runs 9000 deer and produces velvet and venison. The largest income stream of the business is the velvet production and the 18 tonnes of velvet cut by the farm each year make it the largest velvet producer in the world.

Mr Tapley said his attendance at the course, and in particular a presentation from Tasmanian dairy company owner Paul Bennett, had provided the impetus to review the strategy of the farm’s deer operation.

“Paul’s presentation was excellent and I really took inspiration from how he had developed his dairy company by producing cheeses and a number of other value-added products,” Mr Tapley said.

“We’d previously been cutting the velvet we produce, freezing it and selling it to the wholesaler. As a result of Paul’s presentation and the other knowledge I picked up on the program, we are currently going through the process of developing a strategic plan for the business which involves branding our velvet and selling it direct into some of the Asian markets. We hope this new strategy will help make the business more profitable by cutting out the middle-man and ensure we receive a greater portion of the final price paid by the end user.”

Beyond the strategic planning component of the program, Mr Tapley said he’d also benefitted from a number of other aspects of the course, including the interaction with other program attendees.

“I really enjoyed the networking side of the program. I found that despite working on different types of farming operations, all of the program participants were pretty similar and I took a lot away from discussing with people the issues they had on their farms and how they dealt with them. The course participants all still keep in touch too, and this is a real positive as we’ve continued to share ideas with each other.

To date, over 1000 farmers have graduated from the two programs, with this year marking the thirteenth FMP and twentieth EDP.

Both courses run as residential programs. The 2018 Farm Managers Program will be held from June 17 to 22 in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. The first week-long module of the Executive Development Program will be staged from August 19 to 24, 2018, with the second week-long module scheduled for July 14 to 19, 2019.

Applications for the FMP close on Friday, April 27 and for the EDP on Friday May 25:

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 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 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is one of Australasia’s leading agricultural 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 Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

David Johnston
Marketing & Media Relations Manager
Rabobank New Zealand
Phone: 04 819 2711 or 027 477 8153

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: +612 8115 2744 or +61 2 439 603 525