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Posts Tagged ‘business planning’

Team members vs. employees

While many people classify their staff as ‘employees’, it may be beneficial to adjust this mindset and start hiring team members. Having teams and team members will lead to an open and honest work environment, while having employees can lower morale and lead to a high turnover. Having employees can limit the ability to have an enjoyable environment where people are excited to go every day and give 100 per cent.

Is there really a difference? See if you recognize any of these traits in your staff members:

Employees:

  • Have a ‘get it done tomorrow’ attitude, and will treat urgent issues as if they will always be there.
  • Love making excuses or blaming others.
  • Are internally focused- the effort they put into tasks will depend on how the outcome can benefit them.
  • Need a checklist, no more, and are comfortable working towards this checklist. There is rarely any excitement from the employee on the task.
  • Are dependable to do the same tasks and are easily replaceable.

Team members:

  • Will have a ‘we’ mentality.
  • Are focused on finding solutions.
  • Focus on a shared goal among the team.
  • Will be excited and willing to learn and develop their skillset within the organization.
  • Willing to align their goals with the organization’s goals.
  • Are integral to your team- without them your business would not run as smoothly.
  • Work together to improve your business. They believe that everyone succeeds together.

By hiring team members instead of employees you create a culture that is enjoyable for everyone, more accountable, and more productive. To create this attitude begin with an exercise where everyone refers to each other as team mates and team members, and see how the workplace changes. However, this isn’t enough- for your staff to really feel like team members, your will have to treat them as such. Teams, unlike employees, don’t need managers, but leaders, who work with the team to complete the job.

Hire team members who have a shared passion and vision of your business. This will benefit your business in the long run by creating a happier work environment, where team members don’t dread coming to work, which will ultimately create a lower turnover rate among staff. A lower turnover rate means less time spent training new employees and less inexperienced employees, leading to increases in productivity.

Methods to create a team:

  • More recognition and reward for good/extra work.
  • Listen to everyone’s ideas.
  • Trust your team and give them more responsibility/flexibility.
  • Create common goals and show the benefits of teamwork.
  • Create a task which requires teamwork to accomplish.
  • Let everyone have some fun (team bonding activities).

Resources:

http://reliablewaterservices.com/2016/01/employees-vs-team-members-theres-a-difference/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erik-harbison/team-members-vs-employees-whats-the-difference_b_6926436.html

 

 

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Part one of two.

As of July 1st 2016 all employers in Ontario, including farmers, are required to comply with new workplace noise regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The legislation states that farmers and other employers shall ensure that their employees are not exposed to hazardous levels of noise. Hazardous noise, according to the legislation, is 85 dBA or louder, for a time period of approximately eight hours. Examples of 85 dBA are illustrated below.

This legislation does not apply to self-employed farmers with no employees.

 

What this Means to Farmers

This results in additional responsibilities for farmers to ensure safe working conditions for their employees.

Key changes:

  • Farmers shall take reasonable measures for the circumstances, to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels.
  • Noise protective measures may be engineering controls (altering work environment), work practices and, where required and permitted, hearing protection devices.
  • Measurements of sound levels in the workplace (for the purpose of determining appropriate protective measures) shall be done without regard to the use or effect of hearing protective devices.
  • Employers should ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous sound levels of 85 dBA, for eight hours.
  • Except for certain circumstances, employers shall protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels without requiring workers to wear hearing protective devices.
  • Protective hearing devices are not to be used as a primary means of protecting hearing only in the certain circumstances listed below.
  • Where practicable, clearly visible warning signs shall be posted at every approach to an area in the workplace where the sound level regularly exceeds 85 dBA.

 

The Use of Hearing Protective Devices

Hearing protective devices shall be used if other forms of protection such as modifying equipment, absorbing noise, or changing frequency of noise cannot be achieved due to:

  • not in existence or are not obtainable;
  • not reasonable or not practical to adopt, install or provide because of the duration or frequency of the exposures or because of the nature of the process, operation or work;
  • rendered ineffective; or
  • are ineffective to prevent, control or limit exposure because of an emergency.

 

Training and Instruction on the Use of Hearing Protective Devices

If hearing protection devices are provided employers shall also provide adequate training and instruction on the care and use of the device including its limitations, proper fit, inspection and maintenance and if applicable the cleaning and disinfection of the device.

 

 

Selecting Hearing Protection Devices

When selecting hearing protection devices consider:

  • sound levels to which a worker is exposed;
  • the reduction provided by the device; and
  • The manufacturer’s information about the use and limitations of the device.

A hearing protection device shall be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

 

Summary of Changes 

In situations where noise levels are hazardous farmers shall consider the particular circumstances of the situation and use engineering controls, safe work practices and in certain circumstances, provide employees with proper hearing protection devices and necessary training for how to use.

 

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r15381

 

 

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So, you’ve decided you want to become a farmer.

There are many things you need to think about when starting a farm. Some of these things are what do you want to produce, where are you going to produce it, how are you going to gain the skills to do so, and how are you going to finance this initiative?

Very few people who are starting a farm from scratch have the disposable income to get an operation up and running, and keep it going all on their own. So where do you find financing?

Aside from friends and family, the obvious choice would be your financial institution. Most banks and credit unions have agricultural specialists that deal with just this sort of thing. They have the knowledge, and expertise to help guide you through the process of securing the necessary funds to match your business needs.

In addition to the traditional banks, there are also lending institutions that specifically focus on the agricultural community. These funding sources tend to offer more specialized financial services to their clients. A couple of examples would be Farm Credit Canada and the Agricultural Credit Corporation (specific to operating costs), both prominent lenders to farm and farm-related businesses in the country.

Depending on where you are at in your business’s lifecycle, you may also be eligible for funding through various government programs. While the government is generally not in the business of providing funding for farming start-ups, there are a number of cost-share programs that support new initiatives that focus on job creation, innovation and economic development. Some examples of these programs are the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, Growing Forward 2 and various grants offered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Another source of funding that is growing in popularity is crowdfunding. This method relies on donations or offering rewards. The rewards would most likely be directly related to the product or service your farming venture would produce. While this method may seem like a means of getting “free money”, it is considered taxable income, and does require a significant amount of project management to get your funding campaign off the ground, promoting it, and delivering on commitments after your campaign is complete. Additional information on the legalities of crowdfunding for a business, especially when it comes to equity crowdfunding, is available through the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada.

Whatever source of funding you decide to pursue for your new farming business venture, always make sure you do your homework and are aware of the risks involved. Having a solid business plan is the best place to start to ensure you are prepared for what you want to do, and how you’re going to do it when it comes to starting your farm business.

 

Visit Ontario.ca/agbusiness for more information.

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June 15th is the deadline for the self-employed to file income taxes. As the date rapidly approaches, many people are starting to head to their friendly accountant, shoebox in hand. One of the first questions the friendly accountant may ask is, ‘what type of work are you looking for?’ and will you be able to answer that question?

Professional accountants refer to the work they perform for a specific client as an engagement. It is helpful to understand the options available when asking an accountant to prepare financial statements and perform an engagement. Clients can select from a number of different engagements and the accountant will often help determine which one best suits their specific needs.

There are three different engagements associated with the financial statements of a business:

  1. Audit Engagements
  2. Review Engagements
  3. Compilation Engagements

 

Audit Engagements

The objective on an audit engagement is to enable independent professional public accountants to render an opinion on the fairness of the client’s financial statements.

Audited financial statements are the accepted means which many business corporations report to shareholders, to bankers, to creditors and to government. Federal and provincial legislation in Canada generally requires a limited company (corporations) to prepare annual financial statements for audit by qualified independent auditors.

The financial statements subject to audit are the responsibility of the company’s management. The auditors’ responsibility is to express an opinion on those financial statements. The auditors must plan the audit to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatement. Through the study and evaluation of the company’s system of internal control, and by inspection of documents, observation of assets, making enquires within and outside the company, and by other generally accepted auditing procedures, the auditors will gather evidence necessary to determine whether the financial statements present a fair picture of the company’s financial position and its activity during the period being audited.

Review Engagements

The objective of a review engagement is to prepare and review financial statements to ascertain whether they are plausible, that is, worthy of belief. If, after reviewing the financial statements the accountants are satisfied that the financial statements are not misleading, the accountants’ standard report will preface the financial statements.

Where an audit is not required or the shareholders have waived the appointment of an auditor, financial statements may be prepared on a review basis. Reviews provide limited assurance that the financial information confirms to generally accepted accounting principles.

In performing a review the accountants would must be independent from the clients and have sufficient knowledge of the industry which the business operates. They would acquire sufficient knowledge of the client’s business to make intelligent enquiry and assessment of the information obtained, with the limited objective of determining the plausibility of the information reported on. The review should entail enquiries, analytical procedures and discussion with responsible client officials.

This degree of assurance is less than that resulting from an audit and is expressed as either:

  • The negative assurance that nothing has come to the accountants’ attention that would indicate the financial information is not presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, or
  • A reservation together with appropriate disclosure and explanation of the reservation.

Compilation Engagements

The objective of a compilation engagement is to compile unaudited financial information into financial statements, schedules or reports based on information supplied by the client.

A compilation engagement is appropriate only where the client and other users do not need financial information that conforms in all respects to generally accepted accounting principles and audit or review assurance is not required, and where the client understands that the statements may not be appropriate for general purpose use.

The procedures performed are not designed to enable accountants to provide any assurance on the reliability of the compiled information. To warn readers of this lack of assurance, accountants attach a “Notice To Reader” that states that no review was performed on the information (as above) and that the information may not be appropriate for use by the reader. If accountants know, or have reason to believe financial statements are misleading or incorrect, they must not associate with this information. A compilation may be applicable where financial statements are prepared for the exclusive use of the company’s management or for income tax purposes.

 

Financial Management:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/busdev/finance.html

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Direct Marketing Strategies, Part 2

Social Media Strategies

Social media is an important marketing tool that is constantly evolving and it is important to keep up with its changing opportunities. Social media provides farmers with an inexpensive direct two-way channel of communication between themselves and their customers. Social media can be a very useful marketing device if used properly. Here are some tips on using social media effectively:

  • Informative: Get to the point, and tell consumers what they need to hear.
  • Frequency: Frequent posts help to keep your business on your customers’ minds. However, try not to annoy customers to the point where they unfollow/unlike you.
  • Incentives: Offer incentives to customers in return for a follow on Twitter, or a like on a Facebook page. This may cost more money initially, but that constant connection with the customer is important and will pay off.
  • Photos: Try to add in photos where possible. This shows customers what is being sold and good looking food is often hard to resist. Putting in a photo also makes the post appear larger on the news feed, helping to draw attention to it.

Helpful Social media tool: HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows users to schedule and post updates to pages and profiles of social media sites such as Facebook. Hootsuite allows farmers to plan their online posts in advance and stay organized. Additionally, farmers can connect their different social media channels to their website, which is another way to improve organization and save time in the busy summer months.

General Business Strategies

Forming relationships with other local businesses that sell complimentary products can lead to benefits for both parties. Forming business relationships can help businesses:

  • Save costs
  • Reach more customers
  • Form a sense of community

Farmers must make certain that the products their business partners’ sell complement instead of compete with their own products and do not take away potential business.

Consumers prefer locally grown food and buy directly from farmers for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Food quality
  • Atmosphere at the point of purchase
  • Intimate shopping and interaction with farmer

It is important to provide these three listed attributes because this is what makes the direct selling experience unique and helps to ensure differentiation.

Adding value to the products being sold is another method to form a connection with consumers and to keep them coming back. Methods of adding value include:

  • Offer more than just the product (include recipes, suggested uses)
  • Add nutritional information
  • Suggest other local attractions in the area
  • Have fun events (Wagon rides)
  • Build infrastructure (Shelters)

These social media and general business strategies will help to ensure that farmers have the opportunity to meet with their customers face-to-face. Through this interaction farmers can form meaningful connections and hopefully instill brand loyalty among customers.

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Defining Sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic, long-term approach to business.  It maximizes the economic and environmental stability, equity, and health of the farm, business, and family.

A sustainable approach to farming is more than talking about environmental actions or maximizing profits.

Sustainability focusses on business processes and practices, rather than a specific food, fibre, or feed output.  It integrates economic, environmental and societal values to create a Triple Bottom Line (i.e. understanding and accounting for three “bottom lines”: economic, social, and enviornment, instead of simply looking at a cash flow analysis for actions in your operations).  This is very different from a purely profit-driven approach, where businesses benefit economically, but often at the expense of the environment and society.

Agricultural Context

Sustainable Agriculture is…

“the efficient production of safe, high quality agricultural product, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of the farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.” (Sustainable Agricultural Initiative Platform, 2010)

There is a growing global demand to increase sustainability in agriculture.  What this means on-farm differs depending on where the farm is (the Place), what the farm produces (the Product), and where the product is sold and for what price (the Price). Regardless of what is purchased, grown, or sold, there are broad perspectives that can increase the sustainability of every agri-business by addressing the TBL of economic profitability, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Consumers are increasingly concerned with how their food is grown and processed.  The single largest share of impact within the supply chain is the food production itself. Food processors and retailers need long-term and ever-increasing supplies of quality raw materials. Unpredictable weather extremes and global water scarcity make agricultural production and food processing more volatile.  Sustainable practices help ensure businesses along the entire supply chain have reliable sources of product.  At the same time, reliability creates new opportunities for enhanced branding to meet consumer demand.  Sustainable sourcing is a point of differentiation in the marketplace.

While these components are discussed separately below, their goals overlap; impacting and influencing each other.  For example, economic decisions will impact the environmental and social components; the environmental actions taken will impact the economic output and social well-being.

Economic Profitability

To be sustainable, a farm must be economically viable.  While the environmental and social pillars of sustainability may not always translate into immediate economic profit, sustainable practices will have a positive economic impact on the farm.

For example, the diversification of crops can help reduce financial risk.  Over time, diversification of crops can reduce financial risk while improving water quality and increasing other environmental benefits that raise the value of the farm itself.

These factors must be taken into consideration when managing a farm business.

Production and machinery costs are directly affected by sustainable practices.  Fertilizer and pesticide applications can be applied responsibly and, in some cases reduced, based on crop rotation, variety selection or market availability for end-product.  Sometime overall yield may decrease, but differences between production cost and revenue can be improved, leading to increased profitability for the farm.  Likewise, management, marketing skills, and experience of decision-makers will have direct economic effects on the business.

Indicators of your farm’s economic profitability may include:

  • increasing net worth or savings,
  • debt is consistently decreasing, and/or,
  • farm is consistently profitable year after year.

Environmental Stewardship

Stewardship is a familiar concept to farmers.  For many, this is what comes to mind when they think of sustainable agriculture.  Environmental stewardship uses ecologically-sound practices that have a neutral or positive impact on the natural resources and non-renewable resources used on-farm.  It can mean reversing damage that has already occurred, like soil erosion or draining of wetlands.  It can also be enhanced by taking steps to prevent the future degradation of land and water resources through conservation practices, like:

  • naturalizing riparian zones,
  • using smart cattle watering practices,
  • establishing proper cover crops.

These are factors that have direct impacts on your cost of production and economic profitability components of sustainability.

Another key to successful environmental stewardship lies in soil health.  Maintaining adequate soil organic matter, biological activity and nutrient balance are essential to feed crops in the long-term production of the business.

There are many ways to enhance soil fertility and improve soil health, such as including legumes in crop rotation, using manure or compost instead of and /or in complement to synthetic fertilizers, and maintaining a working knowledge of the fertility of the fields so as to properly manage them.

Other stewardship concepts include:

  • protecting water quality,
  • year-round soil cover (residue or cover crop),
  • integrating crop and animal systems to maximize efficiencies, nutrients and energy,
  • controlling invasive plants.

Some traditional practices conflict with sustainable practices, because they severely damage the soil structure and resiliency of a field to adapt to extreme weather events, climate change, and the stresses of intensive crop production.

All practices, new and traditional, must be considered when implementing sustainable farming practices.

Social Responsibility

Social responsibility relates to the quality of life for everyone who interacts with the business: employees, customers, neighbours, local community members, and the farmer.  The most prominent examples of this in rural Ontario are agricultural cooperatives, farmers’ markets, on-farm events and twilight tours.  Other examples occur within the business itself, like fair treatment of workers and good business practices.

Some indicators of social responsibility include:

  • support for other local businesses and families within the community, circulating money within the local as well as the global economy,
  • the rural community population is stable or increasing,
  • post-secondary school graduates return to the community after graduation, to succeed on family farms or with associated businesses.

Summary

Sustainable agriculture is defined by three interactive components: economic profitability, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.  It is important that sustainability is embraced at all levels; farm practices can have compound impacts across the entire supply chain in very complex ways.

Sustainability is a goal. However, a farm should never expect to “achieve sustainability”.  As farm practices become more sustainable, farmers gain a deeper understanding of the natural resources they steward and how this affects their business.

A competent working knowledge of sustainability creates further opportunities for new sustainability practices.  This in turn increases the farmer’s ability to respond to market pressures and environmental conditions, and help develop a robust and resilient business. The profit in sustainable practices is both tangible and intangible. It includes economic gain, environmental stability and social benefit.

Sustainability, like our seasons, is a never-ending journey, which is why it is so important to continue to work towards this goal.

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Register on-line for Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) workshops by clicking on the link below to find dates and locations that suit you.

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