Farmer Focus: Work ethic is key facet of good staff

Counting down the days to my son’s first birthday has me wondering where the past 12 months have gone (and what I used to do with my free time). It has been a challenging year, but without doubt the best one so far, writes Anna Longthorp.

Prior to having my son I did wonder how I was going to juggle running a business and being a mum. I envisaged packing him off to Granny’s every day until I unearthed that maternal gene I had been adamant I didn’t possess.

Read more from our Livestock Farmer Focus writers

Notwithstanding the fact that Richard has been a doddle of a baby – something I’m eternally grateful for and something that probably means I will be stopping with just the one as the law of averages mean that if I were to procreate again, chances are I’d give birth to Satan – but I believe wholeheartedly that the real key to managing is the excellent team of staff I have.

We went through a real tough couple of years of an unstable workforce, people coming and going, pulling “sickies” and generally taking the mick.

But, fortunately, pre-child I took part in a leadership course, which really made me realise how important it was to have the right team to start with and then coach and train them to enable me to “lead” the business rather than “do”.

Before the course, probably about 90% of my time was spent doing the day-to-day hands-on stuff and just 10% leading.

Now I’d say that has pretty much turned on its head because of the way my staff have stepped up and taken on the responsibilities that I used to hold tight to my chest.

The main thing, though, is how reliable the team are. I know that “sickies” are a thing of the past.

Good staff just don’t get sick. And if they do, they come into work and let management take the decision to send them home.

It’s all about work ethic which is why, since my leadership training, I now recruit pretty much solely on that.

Experience comes with time, qualifications and training can be taught, work ethic is something that is either in you or it isn’t – and something I believe can mean the making or breaking of a business.

Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows.