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5 ways an advisory board helps your farm

Maksymowicz/iStock/Getty Images Cows grazing on  pasture with dairy barn in background.
An advisory board creates planned interaction so outside experts can provide input to your business.

Is your business facing big decisions? Are you wishing you had someone to help? Are you stuck in the status quo and knowing you need someone to push you? Are you missing some skill sets?

We have helped many farms launch Advisory Boards to help with these questions. Many of you bounce ideas off friends or trusted advisors informally as needed. An Advisory Board takes that concept to the next level--creating a planned interaction so others outside the operation provide input to the business. Don’t let fear of bureaucracy or formality scare you off—we’ll discuss how and why to go about it in my next post.

First, let’s focus on how your farm would benefit:

  1. You hear advice and ideas from a new perspective. You can get past “the way we’ve always done things” and challenge your status quo. Inviting an outside perspective can be eye opening and energizing and, yes, sometimes uncomfortable. I’ve seen a Board member reviewing three years of financials for one beloved enterprise and politely ask, “Why are you still in this business? It’s clear it’s not working.” While the awkward silence acknowledged that was tough to hear, the business owner appreciated the tough questions and the adjustments it prompted.
  2. If your team is not strong in a specific skill set or expertise, Advisory Board members can help fill that gap with advice and connections to other helpful resources. For example, a former implement dealer brings equipment trading insider knowledge; a colleague with excellent financial acumen could strengthen your money management; someone with retail experience could help launch your direct-from-farm product; someone that runs a factory crew can help with HR issues, etc.
  3. The preparation for briefing the Advisory Board is valuable in and of itself. You want to provide complete information so they can give good input into a decision, but too often you don’t do the same for yourself. I’ve seen partner discussions where a lot of facts were missing to make an informed decision because they were used to winging it or trusting one person’s gut.
  4. The Advisory Board holds you accountable on action plans and progress. When you know you’re going to have to report to a group of people you respect, you are more likely to follow-through and act on tough issues. There’s nothing like peer pressure to motivate!
  5. Having advisors who are familiar with the business and its challenges is a valuable resource for future successors. The next generation of leadership has bench strength in place and has a habit of utilizing it well.

Next time: how to go about it in a way that fits you.

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at K Coe Isom. Reach Davon at davon.cook@kcoe.com. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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