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Building and leveraging an advisory team for your farm

Many advisory teams will meet quarterly.

David Kohl, Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

July 19, 2023

2 Min Read
Your farm advisory team depends on where you need the most help in making decisions.
Peter Garrard Beck/Getty Images

A major trend amongst progressive producers, and more specifically young farmers and ranchers, has been the use of advisory teams. Some teams are quite simple with either a crop or livestock person and sometimes an agricultural lender and accountant. Other advisory teams are more formal and often include the aforementioned individuals, but will also engage a peer, a person outside the industry, or a lawyer.

An advisory team has many benefits in today's economic environment where changes and trends are happening in a New York minute. Outside advisors are analogous to an assistant coach in the skybox or on the bench. If allowed, they will bring new ideas and provide critical thinking and candid feedback. An advisory team expands the business and social network and encourages owners and managers to periodically meet in formal meeting situations.

How often do we meet?

Many advisory teams will meet quarterly. One meeting is usually designated for strategic planning at an off-site facility or face-to-face meeting with pre-session planning input from all members. Since the pandemic, some meetings have been conducted virtually. This allows advisor networks to expand beyond a specific geographic region.

Selection of individuals

The characteristics of the individuals on an advisory team will vary as the needs can be customized to your situation. Quick learners of the agriculture industry and your business are critical. Being a good listener, a proponent of an advising team culture of openness, the ability to provide candid feedback, and not being a “yes person" are all essential traits. Do the individuals have the time necessary for the job? An advisory team's makeup may vary depending on the task. If a transition or estate plan is in order, then this will require more emphasis on accountants, lawyers, lenders, financial consultants, and a facilitator.

The meetings

It is imperative to have an agenda with a time limit under two to three hours, including occasional breaks. Up to one-quarter of the meeting time should be dedicated to the interchange of outlooks and ideas that benefit all in attendance. Someone should be assigned to take minutes, record assignments, and create a to-do list of action items. This provides the necessary feedback and institutional memory loop to carry on the process.

As a business owner and a member of an advisory team, this can be a method to energize your business and provide creative, critical thinking and confirmation of directions and actions for your business.

About the Author(s)

David Kohl

Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

Dr. Dave Kohl is an academic Hall of Famer in the College of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. Dr. Kohl has keen insight into the agriculture industry gained through extensive travel, research, and involvement in ag businesses. He has traveled over 10 million miles; conducted more than 7,000 presentations; and published more than 2,500 articles in his career. Dr. Kohl’s wisdom and engagement with all levels of the industry provide a unique perspective into future trends.

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