10 diversification tips from Herefordshire

Brothers James and Richard Manning will feature in episodes one and three of the Channel 4 documentary, First Time Farmers, which begins on Thursday 7 August at 10pm.

The Herefordshire-based pair blend fresh, local fruit into juices and cocktails, and sell them at food and music festivals.

Using their mobile events bar, The Shack Revolution, they’ll serve tens of thousands of drinks this summer at festivals and arenas such as Wembley Stadium, food events and game fairs, plus running private and corporate bars.

Here are their 10 top diversification tips:

1. Work hard

Farming definitely taught me that nothing worth having comes easily – and only by putting in your all into a project will it turn into something great. The best farms run from first light until dark, and I’ve tried to carry that into the new business as well.

2. Persevere

Having started The Shack Revolution soon after the recession hit, I felt the pinch. When times are tough and things aren’t going right, your gut reaction may be to scrap the whole thing before it gets worse. Sit down, think about it. Can the situation be rescued? How can you make it work for you?

3. Make the most of support

Having a strong network of family and friends has made the new business possible. It’s in the midnight moments of “what on earth am I doing” that you need good people around you. When you first diversify, there suddenly becomes an endless list of what-ifs, but run them past your friends – and your strongest ideas are highlighted and the weaker ones are scrapped.

4. Define your end goal and work backwards

Without a doubt, the best business tip I’ve been given. I use this with every element of the business. From our ultimate goals and plans for the future, to our monthly strategy meetings. Not only can you make sense of ideas in your own head, your team can visibly see what the plan is and the steps needed to achieve.

5. Stick to your guns

Sometimes all it boils down to is sticking to your guns, even when people doubt you. You’ve got to be strong even when you’re being criticised, yet still be open to the good advice you need to grow. Just stick with what you believe in – it’s your business, your responsibility and your reputation.

6. Maintain good relationships

Having strong working relationships is the only way to get on in this life. Coming from rural Herefordshire, where everyone knows everyone, you learn that people will only work with those they respect. Make time for your neighbours, peers, and even the competition. If you go the extra mile, then you’ll be in front of everyone else.

7. Use the wealth around you

What grows best in your soil? What can you access easily? I use the apple juice from my uncle’s orchard in our cocktails because I loved the product, and I loved the potential. Imagine a stranger has just arrived on the farm – what is the first thing they would notice? What’s impressive about your produce?

8. Look after your staff

If you find good staff, treat them well. The more engaged your team are early on, the better. I’ve found fantastic people in rural areas just waiting for an opportunity to shine. Meet their ambitions, shower them with opportunities and challenge them every day.

9. Try new things

Some of the best farmers I know branched out towards the end of their careers, and their farms boomed because of it. Openness to new things will make a business. Stop to assess every once in a while; why do we do it like that? And “because we always have” may not always be a good enough answer!

10. Look after yourself

Rural businesses benefit from beautiful surroundings – and don’t forget that. At first, the move from field to office felt a little restrictive, but then I realised all I needed was to get back out on the tractor, or take the dogs out at sunrise and I began to feel more inspired than ever. Eat well and local, sleep as much as you can and use your free time well.

Read Ian Pigott’s verdict on series one of First Time Farmers

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