Day 2 of GrainGrowers' Innovation Generation conference for young farmers and agribusiness people aged 18-35 saw the focus move to the importance of effective communication in business and in life.
SESSION 3 focused on the fact that successful business all have one thing in common - open and effective communication channels.
Alan Woodward, Lifeline Australia, discussed the importance of maintaining a healthy mind in running a healthy business and outlined some strategies for maintaining good mental health, including maintaining good support networks through effective communication. His top tip: "Try to remember to have fun!"
In a free-ranging discussion, led by MC, Cindy Cassidy, CEO, FarmLink Limited, NFF President, Fiona Simson, emphasised the important role young farmers can have in communicating a positive image of agriculture through sharing the best aspects of their farming lives with urban Australians via social media.
Bec Milliken, Manager, People & Culture, Harmony Agriculture & Food, said that many people leave a business because of a terrible boss - which she believed was actually symptomatic of a terrible work culture which enabled an individual to survive as a terrible boss. She gave participants ideas for ensuring employees were treated better than a business's most valued customers through better engagement - helping them to feel "in" the business and part of the future direction of the business - for improved productivity and less staff turnover.
Mick Hay, Rimfire Resources, enlarged on this theme, with a preamble that there had never been a better time for young people starting out in agriculture: "It's not uncommon now for agricultural graduates to get three or four work offers before they graduate and that will continue." He said that work culture was essentially "how we do things around here". A good work culture undoubtedly attracted talent and needed protecting, he said. He challenged participants to define their value proposition: "Why would someone want to come and work on your farm? What are you putting forward as a business to keep someone engaged? Does someone really want to leave or do they just want to feel valued as making a contribution or do they just want to do something in the business a bit different?"
Jo Eady, RuralScope, talked through a problem-solving model called GROW: Goal, Reality, Options, Way forward (and Will do), which was designed to help this year's Australian Grains Leadership Program participants - and IG participants - to plan a way forward to achieving goals in agriculture and in life.
Sam Burton Taylor, Kenny's Creek Angus discussed the importance of farmers finding out about the culture in their export markets so they could better meet customers' needs. He also emphasised the importance of a farming business having an individual brand with a story to tell (linked to an overall clean and green Australian brand), rather than just selling a commodity.
Deanna Lush, Agcommunicators talked about how trust could be built in Australian agriculture through having conversations with non-ag audiences which began from shared values. She made five recommendations for Australia on the basis of the research she has done overseas for her
1. We need to build understanding across the Australian ag industry of the need to foster public trust
2. The major lack of organisations building trust for ag in Australia must be changed.
3. A cross-commodity organisation focusing on building trust needs to be formed.
4. Spokespeople need to be appointed across all commodities to build trust.
5. Anyone who has a stake in ag should ensure there is a budget and resources set in the business plan for building trust.
Kate O'Callaghan, General Manager, Southern Cotton, gave a useful case study about the Southern Cotton business which was founded by a group of farmers in Whitton NSW in 2011. She described the varied ways in which the business has developed its work culture based around a successful paddock to bale system which is a great deal more than "simply a cotton gin". The $26 million business now employs 11 people plus more than 40 seasonal workers and processes more than 180,000 bales of cotton a year. It won a Telstra Australian Regional Business Award in 2015.
Feyi Akindoyeni from Newgate Communication finished the morning's program with a lively talk about strategic networking and effective communication, both in person and on social media.
The afternoon featured tours to Riverina Oil and Bioenergy Plant; NSW DPI sites; Ladysmith feedlot; and Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory.
Our thanks to sponsors
* GRDC, New Holland Agriculture, Destination NSW
* John Deere, Market Check, City of Wagga Wagga
* Ruralbiz Training, Perten, Charles Sturt University AgriTech Incubator, Glencore Agriculture, Riverina Ag Network, AEGIC, Future Farmers Network and Bayer, Achmea, NSW Department of Primary Industries.
* Media Partner – Fairfax Agricultural Media