Top tips for young farmer business success

Who better to pick up tips about farming than other young people who have “made it” in the industry?

Packed into Europe’s largest underground building last week were more than 150 young farmers at Farmers Weekly’s Fertile Minds conference, held at the Rheged conference centre, near Penrith.

 Four young farmers addressed the crowd to share what they had learned on making it in farming. Here is their advice:

James Price, former Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year, running his family’s 647ha arable farm in Oxford

  • Plan your business to increase your chances of making the best decisions.
  • Don’t turn down opportunities – you will learn something you didn’t know before.
  • Work hard – even if you don’t always feel like it, it will pay off in the end.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know the answer to something.
  • Admit when you’re wrong. You will learn from your mistakes – we all make them.
  • Open your mind to new ideas – question why things are done the way they are.
  • Find yourself a good mentor who will give you good advice.

George Brown, dairy herd manager for Farmers Weekly’s Dairy Farmer of the Year in Cumbria, and winner of Farmers Apprentice 2012

  • Set your goals on a blank sheet of paper, detailing where you want to be in five years.
  • Work out a route plan so you can reach your goal.
  • Get some mentors. Ask them questions and let them keep you on track.
  • Remember that the only thing stopping you achieving your goal is you.
  • Don’t get hung up on a lack of land or capital.
  • Keep a positive attitude – nobody likes a moaner.
  • Work hard. Get some experience by working for a good farmer.
  • Go out to New Zealand or Australia. See how they farm there. Bring back what you learn.

Kate Lord, farm manager at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park

  • Keep an open mind. Find good role model.
  • Consider your personal brand and personal attributes. Score them out of five and work hard to improve your scores.
  • Make sure you have a good boss, good business mentors, and good networks of friends, customers and work colleagues.
  • Get yourself a good business model.
  • Keep one eye on the detail, one eye on the goal.
  • The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
  • Collaborate with people you can learn from

Rob Hodgkins, Nuffield scholar and partner of WairereUK, which sells New Zealand-sourced sheep genetics, and farmer of 3,200 Romney ewes in Suffolk

  • Differentiate yourself so you stand out – market yourself, knock on doors, build up your profile.
  • Talk to people within the industry. Work with them where appropriate.
  • It’s not necessarily a bad thing to study something other than agriculture.
  • Farming is more professional in New Zealand than it is here. Go and have a look.
  • Be focused and business driven.
  • Use technology to your advantage
  • Consider doing a Nuffield scholarship or leadership course with the Worshipful Company of Farmers.

Case study: Tom Nixon

Tom Nixon

© Jim Varney

Tom Nixon is a business coach and entrepreneur and Fertile Minds’ inspirational speaker.

While working long hours for a web design company and feeling undervalued and uninspired, Tom had a light-bulb moment. Business, he realised, did not need to be like this. If done with the right mindset, it could be exciting, fulfilling, purposeful and lead to more success.

Tom’s tips for a different business mindset:

  • Start by asking why you are running your business. This is where you get your energy from, so keep it central.
  • Have good self-knowledge – ask what is important to you. There are often three stages in a person’s career. First they seek achievement, then variety, and finally, meaning.
  • Rule your business with the purpose of freedom for you and your employees – don’t let fear hold you back.
  • Turn fear into something positive – ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid.
  • Often we’re told that work and life should be separate. But what if you aimed to run your business so that work was part of living?
  • Business should work for you and your employees, not the other way round.
  • Business can be destructive, but can also do a lot of good – create a purposeful organisation with meaning.
  • Good business succession is where the energy, values and vision are passed on.
  • It is important that the outgoing boss hands over authority fully and that employees understand this – making a ceremony out of it can help.