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SKILLS & TRAINING A guide to planning for the future, sponsored by

Inside your skills and training magazine

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How to be the best manager you can be

Tips on how to motivate your staff

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Common pitfalls to avoid when negotiating A go-to guide on training courses and providers

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Take stock of costs and become more resilient Identify a vision to achieve your goals

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People management & leadership

Managing and leadership are two different things, but both are needed to retain good staff and lead a successful business.

Lead by example to help retain good staff


osing staff because you are not a good employer can be costly, says Heather Wildman, family facilitator and managing director at Saviours Associates. A manager earning £30,000 could cost £60,000 to replace, she says. Costs soon add up – time lost by your existing employees covering work temporarily; the time and cost of finding a replacement; loss of knowledge to the business and stress and strain on the existing team. Great bosses tend to have several traits, says Ms Wildman. They value people over money and are motivated and capable. They are also respected and respectful, inspi-

rational and capable of leading from the front. They are good communicators and have the courage to confront and say no when required. They also lead by example through their own due diligence and hard work.

Creating business culture

Fostering a culture on your farm that aligns with your mission, vision and values (see page 14) will help create a happy team, working towards what you want. Doing this starts with good leadership, says Ms Wildman: Have clear, continuous communication through regular meetings and one-on-one discussions. Have clear business goals – discuss and share these with the team. Set clear expectations about roles, responsibilities and behaviour. Increase the involvement of staff in decision-making. Show trust by delegating responsibility. 

priority areas and the goals to pursue. Ask what will improve management and whether they need to develop their skills/knowledge and/or their attitudes. Ask whether systems could be better and whether performance measurement and reward is effective. Discuss issues with staff, such as change, achievements, ideas and development needs. Ask if things can be structured differently and whether authority and responsibility is clear. Question whether their leadership style is appropriate to the work being done and whether they could be more involving or inspiring. Try to create team culture. Ensure staff know as much as they need to about strategic developments. Ensure senior staff – including themselves – act as good role models and mentors.

Leaders vs managers

There is a difference between being

What good employers do a good leader and a good manager,

Simon Haley

Successful employers talk honestly with others about issues that affect the business. They: Ensure job clarification – everyone knows what is expected of them. Ensure everyone knows the

says Simon Haley, director at consultants SRH Agribusiness. A manager’s role is more operational – it is about knowing what is happening day-to-day and organising what needs to be done. A leader, on the other hand,

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People management & leadership


Great bosses value people over money and are motivated and capable.

should be concerned with the vision, goals and strategy of the business. For many small- to medium-sized farms, the farmer may be both of these roles in one.Â

What good leaders do Listen

Have the emotional leadership to listen and take ideas onboard, rather than just drown them out.

Communicate vision

Have a long-term vision that they communicate with their employees and colleagues.

Problem solve

See problems and challenges as opportunities. Panicking about something going wrong can make people fear coming to you and telling you that something, like an accident or breakage, has hap-

pened. Being solution-orientated makes you more approachable.

Empower colleagues

Empower people and democratise the workplace, rather than make demands.


Find solutions and ways to do things differently – often by taking the time to step back and look at the overall business strategy.

What good managers do Manage operations well

Understand well the nuts and bolts of how the business works – effectively plans, divides up and communicates tasks accordingly to colleagues. Does not micro-manage.

React to situations

Stays flexible to changing busi-

There is a difference between being a good leader and a good manager SIMON HALEY

ness needs and can adapt the technical and labour resources accordingly and when things go wrong.

Stay calm under pressure

Does not lose temper or panics. Keeps a cool head under pressure.

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How to be a good communicator

Learning to communicate well can improve the way your staff work, save you says Bronia Szczygiel, director at training provider Aspire Leadership.


Boost motivation with c


ood communication leads to happier and more motivated staff who complete tasks better and are more likely to stay with you – all of which saves money and helps create a more enjoyable place to work and more successful business. Bad communication on the other hand often leads to a higher turnover of staff, sloppier work and at worse, a seething undertone of gossip and complaining. So, how do you communicate well?

Understand what motivates someone

To properly communicate with someone, you need to understand what makes that individual tick – this allows you to frame things, such as tasks, in a way which appeals to them. For example, if you know someone is motivated by relationships and helping others, you might say ‘I’m not able to do x, I really need your help, could you please finish it for me?’. For someone who enjoys responsibility, you might say instead ‘I really need someone to take over x, can I leave it in your capable hands?’. To find out what motivates someone, ask open questions such as ‘what have you been

up to today?’. People will normally focus on what they love, or what frustrates them.  Observe how and what they work on – we normally prioritise tasks that we enjoy and procrastinate over those we do not. You might think you know family members well, but you may not know what motivates them professionally – find this out too. Everyone is an individual, but people are generally motivated to different degrees by three things:

1 Relationships with people. 2 Acquiring status and achieving. 3 Learning and growing. So, someone who is motivated by status and achieving will generally like responsibility, while someone who is motivated by relationships might like to feel like they are helping someone.

Two-way dialogue

Day-to-day feedback helps build an open relationship and twoway dialogue. Praise in particular is very motivating and will

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How to be a good communicator


money and help you deal with tricky situations,

h communication Day-to-day feedback helps build an open relationship and two-way dialogue.

encourage someone to keep doing those things. Regular dialogue builds bridges and helps people feel they can return the feedback to you. Two-way communication with staff/colleagues is essential – they may spot problematic or unsafe situations and call them out, or have a useful suggestion for an improvement.

Dealing with conflict

Employ the principle of ‘listen, agree, pause’.

Respond rather than react – if someone is pushing your buttons, pause for a moment and think about the best way to respond. Rather than arguing, focus on where you agree – telling someone that you agree with a particular point allows them to let go of the issue and move on to discuss how things can be fixed. It also helps because people who are agitated or upset feel more emotional if they do not think they are being listened to. Opting to say ‘I understand you are upset/angry’ will go a long way to defusing things. If someone has done something you do not like, focus on their behaviour when you communicate this, rather than passing judgement. For example, consider saying ‘you left the gate open and the sheep got out’ rather than ‘you are an idiot/you are careless’. Judgement is personal and people are likely to react defensively, which then fuels disagreement or bad feeling.

Body language   Body language is just as important as verbal communication. Having a clear intention for an interaction – how you want to come across, or what outcome you want – will automatically cause you to use the body language appropriate to this. For example, if you want to appear calm, you will automati-

To properly communicate with someone, you need to understand what makes that individual tick BRONIA SZCZYGIEL

cally change your body language accordingly.

Emails and texts

Emails and texts can be misinterpreted because there is no body language or voice tone. To avoid this, put attention to your intention and what tone you want to convey. If it is a particularly tricky subject, ask someone else to read before sending. Even just changing words to more colloquial language like ‘I’m’ instead of ‘I am’, can help make an email less brusk. Adapt your language to the person, as you would verbally.

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How to be a good negotiator

Negotiation allows you to exert influence over what you can control more.

How do you negotiate the best deals for your business? Ged Futter, director and founder at Groceries Supply Code of Practice, is a former Asda buying manager and now trains suppliers on negotiation – he explains the art.

The art of negotiating


hen you negotiate well, you feel more in control. It can improve your business relationships, lower the price you pay for things and enhance what you receive for your farm outputs. As a farmer, there are many things you cannot control, such as the weather and commodity prices. Negotiation allows you to exert influence over what you can control more and can mean the difference between a really good or bad deal for your business.  A combination of technique

and preparation will put you in the best possible position to negotiate.

Influence before negotiation

There is a difference between negotiating and influencing: You do not always want to be negotiating with a long-term supplier/buyer, but you do want to be influencing regularly. Good relationships allow you to do this. Let the person or company know how business is going on a regular basis – this plants the seed of what may come in nego-

tiations and manages their expectations. Using the weather in conversation can be an easy way to do this as farming is so impacted by the weather – mention how your crops are looking, or how the price of feed or milk is affecting your business.

Have a collaborative attitude  

Negotiation is not about getting exactly what you want, unless you are very lucky, but about what both parties are happy with, which is usually somewhere in between.

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How to be a good negotiator Common pitfalls when negotiating

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Failing to plan…is planning to fail Not having a back-up plan or ’what if’ scenarios Not understanding what is and isn’t negotiable Bartering and bargaining too early: People start bartering when they should

be listening/planning Not taking a time out to reconsider information Not realising how powerful your own position is Negotiating with someone not empowered to make a decision

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Otherwise, if one party always seems to have the power and is constantly pushing, it may cause the other to eventually walk away from the relationship. This leads to the next point.

stand not what they want, but what they need so you can come to a deal which you both benefit from. How is the company performing? Look at its accounts online at Companies House. Understand what they need  Find out how the market it operBefore any negotiation find out ates in is fairing and what prices as much as you can about the are doing. Has it recently got a other party – you need to under- different supplier, or new cus-


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Not formalising an agreement in a timely and clear way Opening too high, or worse, too low Not getting any training when your opposition is fully trained on how to negotiate

tomers? What alternatives does it have to you? How much does it need you? Timing is important – are there times of the year when it can’t get hold of what you can provide? Are there times when business is slow and it may be more likely to cut a deal?  This might not just come down to money – perhaps you

Know your own business needs before negotiating. What do you need to make a margin?

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How to be a good negotiator

can get a better price if you offer something else. For example, you could offer to deliver grain to a merchant between Christmas and New Year when no-one else will.

Know what you need   Know your own business needs before negotiating. What are you happy to accept and on what terms? What can you afford? What do you need to make a margin?  Be clear in your mind about when you should walk away from a deal. A bad deal can be worse than no deal. 

Some of the best negotiators simply make their point clearly and then sit in silence GED FUTTER

Work out what your alternatives are if you have to walk away. This will give you confi-

dence when negotiating and help prevent any panicked decisions.

Be engaged and as calm as possible throughout – panic shows.

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How to be a good negotiator Understand how they operate

With a longer term relationship it should be easier to understand how a person or company negotiates. For example, does the person tend to open the negotiation with an extreme offer? If so, tell them it is ridiculous, otherwise they will continue to throw out even more extreme offers.  If you don’t know the other person, be really sure of yourself.  If you’re building a relationship, perhaps there is one person that you get on better with in a company. Go in and have regular


chats to work this out and ensure they are there when you go in to, for example, buy a new tractor.

Pay attention to language

A good negotiator listens. If you can sit in silence for longer than is comfortable, the other person will normally continue to talk, giving you valuable information. Some of the best negotiators simply make their point clearly and then sit in silence.  Listen for ‘soft’ language that suggests something is not fixed. For example, ‘I’d like’ and ‘around this figure’ may offer points for negotiation. 

Ask for a moment out from the negotiation to think about options GED FUTTER

Conversely, make your position as clearly and definitely as possible, for example, saying ‘I need’. Observe body language. If they look upwards, they are probably looking for information they don’t know. Are they sat forward and engaging with you, or sat back with their arms crossed not listening and just making the same point? If so, reiterate your point clearly.  Be engaged and as calm as possible throughout – panic shows.  

Take time to think

Ask for a moment out from the negotiation to think about options on the table. Use these few minutes to compose yourself and consider whether it is going the way you want. Do you need to change tactic? Taking time out also shows you are not a walk-over prepared to accept things and the other person may have to come closer to what you need.  You can also say you need to phone the boss, the finance director, or a partner – then use this as a way to say you cannot move any more, or can only move to a certain point. Shape Your Farming Future sponsored by

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Resources & courses

Upskilling and training


ere we share some professional training providers and bodies:

Aspire Leadership

Training on leadership, communication, management and presentation skills. 020 3286 5446 CIPD Professional qualifications, short courses and online study in a range of professional/business development skills. GSCOP Negotiation and GSCOP training delivered by former buyers of major UK supermarkets. City & Guilds Various business and finance qualifications. Impact Factory Training on communication, leadership, management, resilience and work-life balance. / 020 7226 1877 QA Hundreds of business and leadership courses, including online ones. Reed Not a provider, but a useful online search tool for thousands of professional courses around the country.

Agricultural training providers and programmes

Royal Agricultural University The university runs the following three-week residential courses: John Edgar Trust Management Development Scheme Open to those in southern England at an early stage of their careers and with management experience or potential and who are likely to be future leaders in their field. 889 879 Institute of Agricultural Management Leadership Development Programme Known within the industry for turning out great leaders in the agri-food sector, the course covers communication and management skills, personal development, EU and international affairs and UK industry leaders and policies. Worshipful Company of Farmers Advanced Course in Agricultural Business Management Running since 1963, the course develops individuals’ capacity to understand and manage their own business. It covers business strategy, financial management, change management, communication and more. 889 879 Bishop Burton College The Farm Management Development Programme takes place over two one-week residential blocks and aims to develop young people in a management position in farming or a rural business. It covers: farm budgeting, analysis of farm

accounts, people management, motivation, leadership, understanding the costs of production, benchmarking, communication skills, time management, resource planning and risk management. Lantra The sector skills council for agriculture, it provides a wide range of professional development courses for those in the land-based sector. A good place to search using its online tool.

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Resources & courses


The Open University Can’t leave the farm? Try Europe’s largest university and the world’s leading distance-learning provider. It offers a range of short courses on professional development skills. Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs (SAYFC) There is a need and desire from young people, industry and employers for further leadership and business skills, so with this in mind SAYFC offers its Cultivating Leaders

Programme for its members. Topics include understanding what makes a good leader, business planning and developing financial skills. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise Joining forces to fund a programme aimed at business managers and employees from small- to medium-sized rural businesses who want to develop skills in leadership and boost their business.


Caroline Mason Head of agriculture, Co-op Farmers are facing a changing world and with a growing population it means the next generation will have to produce more food with less resources, alongside practices that ensure a sustainable future. Farmers and those in agricultural communities will find benefit in having wider skills to help meet these challenges. Effective negotiation, staff management or financial skills are just as vital as being able to handle machinery or identify a sick animal. To help the next generation get this balance right, training and support has to be a priority. Co-op is committed to ensuring the next generation of our farmers have the knowledge, skills and expertise to run efficient, profitable and sustainable businesses. I’m so proud of our Farming Pioneers programme, which has 54 young farmers taking part currently. We have pledged to take at least 100 young farmers through the programme as part of Co-op’s commitment to British agriculture. We all know farming is challenging, so ensuring our next generation of food producers have the skills they need to meet that challenge is vital.

Caroline Mason

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Basis of management

Good business and financial management improves profitability and resilience.


Know your numbers to


armers in control of their numbers are more resilient – normally from a personal perspective as well as financial. This is because knowing your numbers – your cost of production, margins and profitability – means you can make more informed, rational decisions about your business. Agriculture faces a lot of uncertainty in the current political environment and those who understand their financials will be in a better position to weather what may come. It is worth noting that it is easy to become fixated on cost-cutting, but creating value is also important. This means thinking more holistically. For example, reseeding grassland is a cost, but data shows that farms which reseed more frequently have improved productivity and better financial performance. Finding value comes from

analysing good data. So, what can you do?

The essentials everyone should do

The basics of good business and financial management mean understanding your costs of production and profitability for each enterprise, and the relationship between each. There are numerous accounting software packages that will help with this, but you can also breakdown enterprise costs using a spreadsheet. Break inputs and outputs down line by line for each enterprise, so if you are looking at feed costs, for example, know what you are spending on dairy cows, youngstock, beef cattle, sheep, etc. Break it down between home-produced forage, boughtin supplies and supplements. Are you wasting any? This will be far more useful for making decisions than one single overall figure for feed.

Do this monthly or quarterly to create a set of management accounts so you have up-to-date figures to work off and make decisions accordingly. Too often, people rely on data from their end of year tax accountant, which can be 15 to 18 months out of date. Succession planning should also be a part of farm business management. People often have their most productive time at work between their mid 20s and early 50s. So if you don’t bring the next generation properly into the businesses management until their 40s, they have lost two decades when they could have been contributing and building up knowledge.

Understand your numbers

So you have got your numbers all laid out. Now what? You need to analyse them, pull them apart and question why a cost is high, or productivity low in different areas.

Don’t be intimidated by numbers

A lot of farmers, particularly young farmers, feel intimidated by accounts – but I always say, if you can add, subtract, multiply and divide, then you can understand it. It’s not as complicated as you might think PAUL FOX For more information, visit

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Basis of management


Paul Fox, of Kite Consulting, walks us through the basics.

s to increase resilience All good farmers are data analysts – every day they think about numbers; how many litres of milk they have produced, for example.

To do this, you will need good ‘physical’ data about your farm. This adds context to the financial numbers: Pin-point where and how you are using inputs and where and how you are achieving outputs. So, data such as tonnes of feed bought or the quality, quantity and cost of forages made; volumes of fuel and fertiliser used; volumes of milk produced; number of cattle or sheep sold; tonnes of a crop produced. All of this will help you ana-

lyse your financial data. This is not as hard as you might think – all good farmers are data analysts – every day they think about numbers; how many litres of milk they have produced, or litres of fuel they have used; how many tonnes of feed they have consumed, or tonnes of grain they have harvested.

Got the essentials, now what?

Once you understand your numbers, start to benchmark

against data from other farms running similar enterprises. AHDB has several free benchmarking tools, and specialist accountants and consultants often have their own set of data you can use. At Kite, for example, we have information from more than 400 dairy farms which can be used for benchmarking. Some universities and agricultural colleges also have benchmarking groups or data sets, as do some milk buyers.

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Creating a vision

Maybe you are starting out in farming? Or maybe you are stuck in a rut and want a refresh? Whatever the reason, having a vision will help you achieve what you want and live the life you desire.

What’s the dream? Business vision and motivation


aving an agreed and shared vision helps you and those around you know why you are doing what you are doing, says Heather Wildman, family facilitator and managing director at Saviours Associates. She says: “This will help you get to where you want to be and bring clarity to where you and everyone else fits into the dynamics.” A clear vision will also bring structure to planning and keep bad days, hard times and any crises in perspective, she adds. “This is why it is important to have it written down and shared; ideally on a chart so you can see and measure how you are progressing. When times are going well, you can recognise this and reward. “If progress is not going as planned, you can think about whether this is just a blip, or

an alarm that the vision may need reviewing.”

Find your vision

There are many ways to do this, but Ms Wildman suggests starting with the end in sight. Ask yourself where you want to be at 80 years old? What kind of life will you want to lead and have led? How much money will you need to make this possible? Ms Wildman says: “Realistically, what will make you happy? The most successful people love what they do.” Write all your desires and aims down, then break your life into chunks. What do you need to do in each period to get to where you want to be in the next? Put a date in the diary for when you want to have achieved certain goals.

Get out of a rut

If finding vision needs a bit of inspiration, get out and speak to as many people as possible. Those surrounding you make

a big difference and bouncing ideas around will soon help you see new possibilities, says Ms Wildman. Farming discussion groups and work experience with someone who does something different to you are good ways to do this, regardless of your age. Tell friends, family and contacts what you are hoping to do and they will soon start passing contacts or opportunities to you. Talks, seminars, webinars and other farming meetings are a good way to meet people and be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking, adds Simon Haley, director at consultancy SRH Agribusiness. He says: “If you stay on-farm surrounded by the same thoughts and same people, you will always come up with the same answers.” Talk to your farming advisers too, suggests Mr Haley. This will allow you to get thoughts off your chest and test ideas.

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Creating a vision


A clear vision can help keep bad days in perspective.

Also, advisers will ask difficult questions and play devil’s advocate in a way family won’t. They will then go away and investigate possibilities for you.

Define your own ‘success’

Success means different things to different people. For some it might be just treading water with their business so they can continue to farm, says Mr Haley. For others, it might be putting their kids through private school, going on several holidays and owning an expensive car. Know what is important to you. Are you working towards something because of someone else’s ideas of success, or your own? Are you pursuing what will make you happy? Even daily success can be challenging. We tend to write lists that are not achievable and then feel deflated, says Ms Wildman. Instead, plan 80% of your day only. This gives time for

Where are you right now?

DRAW a triangle like the image below. Starting in the middle at zero, plot how much time/energy you dedicate to each of the three areas, says Ms Wildman. The closer to 10 you get, the more time you are spending on it. Do this too for how fulfilled you feel in each of these areas. A more balanced triangle is a more balanced life.


10 0 10


people to talk to each other, rest, have fun and deal with unexpected things, such as accidents or machinery break downs, she says. Aim to finish 30 minutes before the end of the working



day and then take time to sit and reflect. What has worked and what hasn’t? Make a plan for the next day, then switch off and try not to take your work home.

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Creating a vision

Heather Wildman advises writing down your mission, vision and values.

Write it down

Write your mission, vision and values somewhere the team can see and be sure to review how you are living up to these.

Here is an example from Ms Wildman: Mission:

To produce milk profitability from happy cows and happy people.


To have a team of people who work well together, looking out for each other

while taking ownership and responsibility for themselves and for the day-to-day running of the business. To have a team which gets a buzz from being consistently in the top 10% of profitable performers in the benchmarking group. To be respected and viewed in our community and industry as a good farm and a fantastic place to work. To be a business where work/ life balance and time off-farm is respected. To be a dairy business consistently achieving 7ppl profit


People come first with cows a close second. A fully integrated happy team which is focused, hard-working and pulls together with open communication, trust and respect. Herd health and technical performance is never compromised. A tidy, smart, well-invested dairy unit, respecting and working with the environment. Where quality and pride in work equates to quality, respected time off.

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Profile for Agribriefing Ltd

Co-Op - December 2018 Booklet  

Co-Op - December 2018 Booklet  

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