Recently I was in Embrun, Ontario, Canada, south of Ottawa, at a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Speaking Series event. Brian Little, the head of RBC agribusiness for Canada, shared the podium with me as we spoke to 175-plus producers and agribusiness persons. Brian discussed the management practices of key producers in their $7-billion agricultural portfolio. See how you compare:

  • First, they utilize advisory boards. This includes accountants, bankers/lenders, peer producers, etc. They are not afraid to put aside both time and money to utilize these experts and act on their suggestions.
  • The successful producers spend more time on planning and research than average. Specific topics include finance, human resources, marketing, succession, risk management and technology. Some will spend up to 85% of their time doing and 15% managing.
  • They “sharpen the saw” and analyze costs or are superior in expense management. Often industries that are in the successful part of the cycle, such as grains, get away from the basics, which create missing teeth or a dull saw.
  • Next, they maximize technology. That is, they do not have to have all the latest techie devices, but they know what they need and can utilize it and then implement and measure for success.
  • Finally, they are adaptable and flexible to changing conditions. Today’s world requires a high degree of flexibility in finance, human resources, marketing and operations.

How do you stack up to the best from Canada? I dare say these characteristics would bode well for any business model.

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, The Corn And Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu.