How to build a solid farm management team

Building the right farm business management team can take time, but the effort can pay off in long-term growth and profitability.

“First you need to identify your farm’s needs and then start building your team,” says farmer and BDO Canada’s national agricultural practice development leader, Maggie Van Camp.

“Be really clear about what you want your advisors to do for you,” adds Elaine Froese, farm family transition coach and farmer.

Accountants

A team that’s not the right fit could result in costly errors.

When it comes to finding good accountants, start with ensuring they have a charter professional accountant designation, Van Camp advises. Besides the rigorous training, CPAs belong to a governing body with rules and regulations on professional development and conduct.

She also believes farm accountants should be knowledgeable about agriculture. Ask questions. Do they have a farming background? Do they know about and understand key issues in the ag sector? How many farm clients do they have?

And don’t just choose someone who’s nearby: expertise should trump geography.

“It’s becoming more and more important for farms to have a quality accountant who really knows Canadian agriculture,” Van Camp says.

Resources

The Canadian Association of Farm Advisors can be a useful resource for farmers to help them separate the wheat from the chaff.

CAFA was created to protect farm families and businesses by raising the standards of all farm advisors, and ensure them access to quality and timely advice, says executive director Liz Robertson.

Farmers can call CAFA or check out its website, which lists members like accountants, lawyers, bankers, financial planners and family coaches.

References

Robertson adds another way to ensure credibility of potential team candidates is to ask for references from other farmers and/or their current, trusted advisors.

Van Camp points out excellent advisors will recommend the best in other fields because they will already be working with them regularly.

“Word-of-mouth referrals to me are the litmus test. That’s how I find good advice,” adds Froese.

Accountability

A team’s performance also needs to be monitored, and loyalty should take a backseat to outcomes.

Although many farmers might not be willing to have those difficult conversations, Froese insists it’s not ungracious to be clear about what your expectations of service are.

Decisions and billing should be questioned if something has gone wrong. Don’t just eat the costs of a plan that went awry or over budget, Froese says.

And there may come a time when a parting of the ways becomes necessary, even if hard to do.

Bottom line

Building a farm management team takes time and effort, but the dividends are valuable. If the team isn’t working out, it’s OK to make change and find new members.

Article by: Richard Kamchen