To help them prepare for opportunities, brothers Nathan (left) and Sean Collins of Murdock, Minn., use an advisory board.
Advisory boards yield better business results
Nathan and Sean Collins put together an advisory group two years ago and it’s already yielded huge benefits.
"We talked a lot about building a hog facility," Nathan says. "But after listening to the outlook
the group gave us, it wasn’t a risk we wanted to take. It wasn’t our strong suit."
Given what happened to the hog industry right after the Murdock, Minn., brothers considered entering it, their decision turned out to be a prescient one.
"Such groups are indeed a new and healthy trend," says Bob Aukes, the facilitator of a producer group and a financial consultant based in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Collins Family Partnership’s board of advisers consists of five members, all non-farmers although rooted in agriculture. The brothers’ father, who still works on the farm, also sits on the board.
The advisory council meets about once a year to help the partnership position itself for opportunities down the road. "We know how to run our business, but someone with an outside vantage point may see something we miss," Nathan says.
"It’s easy to sit in the cab of a tractor and listen to the radio and get so bullish that you can’t see straight. It’s good to get the outlook of someone else," Sean adds.
Advisory Group Seminar
|Join Top Producer and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist Danny Klinefelter on July 11–12 for a business short-course to help growers organize peer advisory groups. The seminar will be in Grapevine, Texas, at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. For more information or to register, call (979) 845-7171 or e-mail email@example.com.
Help with Estate Planning. One way Howard, Kan., producer Jim Perkins uses outside advisory boards is to help him with the challenging task of putting together an estate plan. "The board can ask leading questions," he says. "They can challenge me in ways my own family can’t get away with. That’s good for the business."
Advisers also have offered up timely information to Perkins. For example, in a recent meeting
in which estate planning was discussed, one adviser who is an accountant pointed out a change in tax law that would benefit the farm, but there was only 60 days to get it done. "We got into gear and completed it," Perkins says.
Farmer Boards. Pat Duncanson has belonged to several all-farmer advisory boards. On one board, the producers live several states away from each other, which makes it easier to share detailed financial and production information. This would be tougher to share with neighbors, says the Mapleton, Minn., grain and livestock producer.
One benefit Duncanson sees in groups that consist of various crops and livestock operations is that the perspective is different. "Some of the operators grow sugar beets and their perspective really has value," he says.
- Spring 2011