Today's Harvest
Where Agriculture Means Business

Are you running your business, or is your business running you?

Many of the men and women who start or work their way into agricultural businesses do so out of a love for the work and the independence that comes with being one’s own boss and working on the land. That independence sometimes comes along with an adherence to the old saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” But, that may not always be the best or most efficient way to manage an ag business.

Managing employees and delegating certain tasks and duties in a business is a critical part of growing and evolving. In some cases, time and budgetary constraints limit the amount of delegation possible. But oftentimes, being able to effectively delegate some duties to employees can have a considerable impact on your bottom line.

Capitalize on your strengths

Instead of thinking of the drawbacks of hiring someone to do a job that you could just as easily do yourself, think in terms of how you can best leverage your strengths. Ask yourself “Am I running my business, or is my business running me?” If the latter is true, find out how to better apply what you’re best at, a process that may mean adding part- or full-time help.

Maybe you excel in direct marketing, but the manual labor of operating your business takes much of your time during the busy season. Even if it costs $15 per hour to hire someone to take care of that manual work (remember that’s payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance, too!) this allows you to focus on marketing, which can net your operation bigger returns in the long run. Think of it as spending $15 per hour to free up yourself for another job that can yield a $100 per hour return to your business – so really you’re $85 per hour ahead! Over the course of a year, this could equate to $170,000 in additional revenue to your business. (2,000 hrs x $85/hr = $170,000)

Start with a plan

If you’re new to working with employees and delegating tasks, start by taking a good, hard look at your business and creating a plan. Where do you see your operation going in the future? How are job responsibilities broken down in your operation? Take time to map out your organizational structure, including any interdependencies among tasks and accountability for their completion.

It’s just as important to identify all business stakeholders, their job duties and strengths, too. If this process reveals the same business stakeholder is responsible for multiple tasks, ask yourself where that person’s strengths lie and how you might be able to delegate certain tasks to maximize those strengths and the impact they can have on the overall business.

Know your needs

 This process can sometimes reveal not enough attention paid to specific tasks, or a business stakeholder or employee may be working on a job for which he or she isn’t suited. Identifying these scenarios are key to the next step in the process: Getting a good handle on the skills your work force is lacking and how to approach hiring and delegation based on those unmet needs.

Finally, if this process reveals the need for a new business partner or employee is necessary, keep your operation’s specific needs in mind. Whether you’re hiring part-time labor or a full-time partner to help manage your business, it’s important to find the right people with skills that complement your own and fill any unmet needs.

If you’re on the other side of the table

Whether you are seeking part-time employment at an agricultural operation, or you’re looking to partner with an existing operator to gain entry into the industry, the same attentiveness to specific business needs is just as important. In approaching a potential business partner, learn his or her needs and identify how you can help meet those needs.

How far you go in developing that understanding should be determined by your aspirations. For example, if you’re looking to become the junior member of a succession plan team for the operation, understanding the business’ organization, stakeholders, strengths and weaknesses is very important. Continuing an agriculture business’ legacy is contingent upon the next generation learning how to sustain it by bringing specific, necessary skills to the table.

Farm Credit East business consultants work with farm businesses to help them develop business plans to improve profitability, which often includes developing strategies to successfully manage workload through employees and delegation. Check out our Business Consulting page to learn more.

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