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Serving: United States

Neighbors to the North: Best Practices

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David Kohl looks at best management practices in two countries.

Those that follow this column know that my treks to Canada, which have allowed me to engage with those involved in the Canadian agriculture industry, have been one of my favorite pastimes. With the borders currently closed, these trips have come to a screeching halt. However, video conferencing technology has provided the venue to deliver educational programs to Canadian producers. A recent webcast, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), with many producers in Western Ontario was very fulfilling. While many were busy combining, caring for livestock, or involved in greenhouse or winery businesses, the participants set aside time to answer polling questions. One of the questions asked was, “What is your best management practice?” The responses were all over the board; however, it may provide you with some insight of what your peers in the north are doing to be successful.

One best practice that will be truly relevant for the decade of the 2020s is to manage the timing and review of key performance indicators (KPIs). Depending on the specific business or goals of management, KPIs can measure performance in a variety of areas such as production, marketing, finance, efficiency, human resource management, and compliance. A suggestion is to have no more than three KPIs in a given area that will be monitored either monthly or quarterly.

Another very appropriate best management practice identified by the Canadian producers is to set aside time to discuss the future. In many cases, engaging partners, family, and stakeholders to listen to a webcast or discuss other factors can be a great way to jumpstart the strategic planning process. In some instances, a consultant, facilitator, or team of advisors can add perspectives and insight for the future of the industry or the business.

Pandemic economics has highlighted the importance of a backup plan. A discussion of unintended consequences and having plans A, B, C, and D in a world that changes around every corner was another best management practice identified by the Canadian producers.

Strong relationships, communications, and daily check-ins with your team are a day-to-day element that are like the oil and grease” for the culture of the business. Open communication and listening can be a great way to leverage the talents of your partners inside and outside of the business. Daily meetings and a connection with employees can provide consistency to minimize surprises and bring trust and transparency to the business culture.

Finally, many of the participants reported knowing and understanding costs as a best management practice. They realize that costs can be specific to a business and also are dynamic and fluid. Reviewing the financials and conducting variance analysis to compare actual results to projections can also be a process for continuous improvement.

How do these best management practices from our good neighbors to the north compare to your business?

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