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Home > UnCommon Farms Blog > The Role of Farm Business Consulting Companies in Modern Agriculture

The Role of Farm Business Consulting Companies in Modern Agriculture

The agriculture industry has changed so much in the last 20 to 25 years. With equipment, we’ve had the proliferation of such items as auto-steer, swath control, and variable rate for seeding and applications. With inputs, we’ve seen the advent of biologicals and adjuvants and a bevy of pest control products. And then on the business side, we’ve seen more and more farms utilize farm business consulting companies of various types.

This article is to shed more light on this type of provider serving farms across North America.

Why Utilize a Farm Business Consulting Company?

Why would a farm want or need to utilize the services of a farm business consulting company? Because to thrive and survive to today’s ag world, a farmer simply cannot know or be good at everything they need to be on their own. They need help, assistance and advice in areas that they don’t know thoroughly themselves. Most farmers are pretty good at growing crops or raising livestock, but they may not be fully competent or knowledgeable at transition planning or human resources, for instance.

Farms have been using marketing services to help with their crop merchandizing for years and years. Now they are learning to rely on outside providers for other areas of their business that are also important.

 

Services Provided by Farm Business Consultants

The areas of expertise that a farm business consulting company may bring to the table include:

  • Succession Planning
  • Business Entity Structure
  • Legal
  • Human Resources
  • Finance & Accounting
  • Strategic Planning
  • Leadership & Management
  • Landowner Relations
  • Business Development (Expansion)
  • Tax
  • Technology (computer servers, internet connectivity, data security, etc.)
  • Business Marketing (branding, promotion, etc.)

And they might offer additional services such as

  • Peer Groups & Networking opportunities
  • Training Courses – to continually grow your knowledge base
  • Coaching for Accountability – helping you stay on task for the things you want to do

Certainly no one person can be good at all these different and divergent areas. But yet producers need to do advance their farms in most, if not all, of these areas.

 

Specific Services & Assistance Provided

To further explain what such providers might do for a farm, here are some particular examples of services and assistance provided in these various areas:

  • Create a plan for kids to come back to the farm
  • Clearly define roles, in writing, for each family member and employee working in the farm
  • Prepare a financial analysis of the farm to assist with decision making
  • Guide farm leaders in writing a strategic business plan
  • Budget set-up and monitoring throughout the year
  • Ensure the farm stays in compliance with employment laws, and assist with disciplinary situations
  • Provide advice on if/when a farm could buy or rent additional land
  • Mediate disputes between family members
  • How to improve your odds at winning rent bids
  • Tactics to improve productivity of employees
  • Reducing liability exposure and improving tax advantages with your entity structure
  • Strategies for freeing up time of farm owners
  • Structuring a collaboration between you and another farm
  • Methods of enticing retiring farmers to have you take over their land
  • Benchmarking of your farm on numerous metrics, to see how you compare and might improve

There are literally hundreds of different services provided and assistance that might be offered.

 

Benefits of Using Farm Business Consulting Companies

The benefits of using a farm business consultant are many:

Done Better

Someone once said that you can’t beat a person at their own game. So, a farm is simply not going to do something as well as an expert in that field and who has a sole focus on that field.

Save Time

Similar to the above point, an expert will typically complete a task faster than a “lay person.” Also, outsourcing certain tasks to professional allows you to focus on other areas.

Done at All

Oftentimes farms either have intentions of doing something but just never get around to it. Or, they might start a project, realize they are not entirely sure how to go about it and then don’t complete the project or initiative. So sometimes the best thing that a farm business consultant company helps a farm with is just getting it done at all, regardless of speed or quality.

Objective

Having an outside, third party that has no emotional connection to the farm, the family, its employees, or the situation or problem being addressed often leads to a superior result.

 

What to Look for in a Farm Business Consultant Company

There are 6 characteristics that you are advised to consider when looking at a farm business consulting company:

  1. Full-Service

  2. You want a company that can do it all, not one that only focuses on a few areas. Why? Because you know what you need right now, but you don’t know what you may need in 6 months. So having a provider than can fulfill all such needs saves you time from finding and selecting another provider later, it will lead to quicker implementation, and also the internal communication between the different subject matter experts within that company will lead to far better results.
  3.  
  4. Number of Staff

  5. There are some companies that hold themselves out there as being experts in all such areas, but then there are only 3-4 people on staff. There is simply no way that one person can truly be an expert in 4-5-6 different areas.
  6.  
  7. Ag-Specific

  8. You want a firm that all they do is ag, because certain rules and regulations are different for farm than other businesses, plus they can bring experiences and knowledge gained from other farms to deliver superior services to your farm.
  9.  
  10. Sole Focus

  11. There are some farm business consulting companies where the principal people have other businesses. There is one such company in which the two main people also run a 20,000 acre farm. How truly committed are they to their consulting business, and hence to helping your business? Look for a firm that all they do is farm business consulting.
  12.  
  13. Experience

  14. The longer someone has been in business, typically the more credible they are and certainly the more experienced they are at delivering on the same/similar needs that you have. There are some “bandwagon jumpers” and Johnny-Come-Lately’s that have come into this space and simply do not have much experience to bring to the table to assist you.
  15.  
  16. Advise Only or Actually Implement?

  17. You can receive the best advice, learn all kinds of things, or pick up great ideas, but if you do not actually implement, then you are wasting your time and your money. There is never a shortage of people willing to tell you what you should do. An argument could be made that it is all about implementation. This one is non-negotiable. Be 100% sure that the provider you select will actually help you implement their solutions, and not just advise or consult.

By the way, UnCommon Farms provides assistance in 14 different areas, has a staff of 65 people, has been around for 57 years, only serves family owned farms, and puts a strong emphasis on implementation through our assistance in putting things into place and our coaching for accountability. If you want to actually get stuff done, then you want to contact UnCommon Farms.

 

Conclusion

Farms need to be working with a farm business consulting company as it will help improve their farm, to be more effective and efficient, make it more enjoyable to work in for all involved, and actually attract family members and employees to want to work there.

Farms need to work with UnCommon Farms.

Written by

Dave Bryden

Sr. Business Development Representative

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