Farming is moving faster than policy and business at the moment. Rather than being at a crossroads as is often suggested, farmers are on a fast-moving motorway, and they are doing everything they can to avoid running out of fuel.
Without the protectionist EU regime, they need to make decisions fast. Some of it is straightforward, looking at commodities, for example; the environmental bit is harder, an ethereal product that may make money or clinch a contract in the future. They have nothing to design against, but they are constantly keeping an eye on where they could create new income.
What farmers do will impact the industry and this is where other agri-business has to be ready for it.
Rather than looking up and down the supply chain and being paralysed by fear, agri-businesses need to be thinking strategically and looking at where they can add value in the space between Government and farmers to advance their own commercial success.
Key to this is talking to customers to understand where their eye is focused as well as their points of pain to see where you can add value. This means going beyond the usual transactional conversation to find out more what matters to them, what their plans are for the future; thinking about what is special about you and your customers and where there is potential in the value chain. What is stopping them succeeding and what can you do?
And have the same conversation with the farmers.
What we do know is change in land use is imminent and the whole industry needs to look up now. What are your growers and producers planning and where is the opportunity or threat for your business? When you collect the grain, will you be asking if they’ll be growing crops on the same scale next year? Or what are the big compost bins for, or the wildflower meadow? Where is the opportunity to work together? Could you be creating a route to market for new enterprises?
It’s not binary: it won’t be food production or environmental as farmers don’t work like that. Farmers are working out what will deliver for them best, despite policy, and will evolve with that, and by keeping the conversation open there could be bigger opportunities ahead for both parties.
Anticipating customer needs and the changing landscape will be core to any business strategy review, but so should be the digital trajectory. With an integrated digital supply chain, blockchain and consumer demand for transparency all on the rise, fast, seamless technology will be critical for any high-achieving modern business.
SMEs need to ensure that their systems are doing what they need to do, that they can adapt to future changes and are easy to use and efficient for customers in order to retain their business.
This doesn’t necessarily mean significant change or outlay but it does need thought to establish how to get from A to where you want to be at B with the appropriate digital solutions – efficiently, slickly and without unnecessary expense.
Progressive businesses also need to put people and planet at the heart of their strategy, as well as profit. Read more about this in my next blog on this.
Navigating the secure future of any business needs strategic thinking, and with changes in agriculture, policy and trade moving at a pace, this is a crucial time for agribusinesses to take a step back and review the direction of travel. By taking the time to have conversations both externally with customers and suppliers, and internally, and to plan with a cool head, rather than waiting until needs must, will give your business every chance of success at a pivotal time in the sector.
If you want to review your business strategy to ensure that you have explored all avenues to best take it into a profitable, sustainable future, please don’t hesitate to contact me. With experience across the supply chain and rooted in farming, I bring senior strategic leadership on a short-term or flexible basis to analyse where the business is, where it needs to be and devise a strategic plan for you to confidently take it there.