How do you finance your business to achieve your goals when starting, growing or retiring your business?
Whether you’re part of the generation looking to harvest your life’s work, the generation seeking to plant the seeds for your future, or the generation in between wanting to grow or diversify, we’ve built a series for you.
Join Steve Kluemper, president of AgriStrategies LLC for three 1-hour sessions via Zoom hosted by Michigan Farm Bureau as he walks through the questions we should be asking and answering as we prepare for the future. You can see all of the questions on the AgriStrategies LLC 25 Questions For Your Business blog post. These sessions are free and open to anyone compliments of Michigan Farm Bureau.
June 3 | 9am | What are your goals? June 10 | 9 am | What financing do you need? June 17 | 9am | What information do you need to get financing? Register here: bit.ly/3uATwe7
Come prepared to put your new skills to the test right away. You’ll finish each session with new knowledge, new tools and a solid action plan.
When registering, you can also express your interest in having an additional in-person session that will allow you to spend some crucial time working ON your business and answering Steve’s 25 questions.
If you’re unable to attend the scheduled sessions, register anyway because recordings will be made available following each session.
Obtaining financing for your business to achieve your goals is often a daunting task. A lot of questions need to be answered. This list of 25 questions is a good way to start breaking down this task into manageable pieces.
What Are Your Goals?
Why are you in business?
Who are the key stakeholders for your business?
How do you communicate with key stakeholders?
What are your business’ competitive strengths?
What does success look like for your business?
How will you achieve success?
What does your business plan look like?
What Financing Do You Need?
What does your business do?
Where is your business going?
How does your business succeed?
Does your business have the cash to succeed?
What commitments are you making to help your business succeed?
How are you planning to make sure all the commitments you make can be met?
What does your annual budget look like?
What Information Do You Need To Get Financing?
Are you profitable?
Are you efficiently using your assets?
How can you improve your return on assets?
How much debt do you have relative to your income?
What debt structures do you have relative to your assets?
What mitigating factors do you have to offset less desirable metrics?
What do your financial metrics look like?
How Do You Finance Your Business To Achieve Your Goals?
Hello! My name is Steve Kluemper. I’m glad you stopped by. AgriStrategies LLC is proud to sponsor the first Magnetic Ag newsletter of April 2021. I’m here because I can help you and your customers and suppliers in the agricultural industry supply chain. As you know, a supply chain is only as good as its weakest link. Where do you see the weakest link in your supply chain? Is it you? Your customers? Your suppliers? I hope you will reach out to me for a free consultation so we can have this discussion and see how I can help.
You can learn about scheduling a free consultation and helping support the National FFA Foundation below.
If you are in ag retail, I can not only help your business, but I can help you help your farmer customers, to make them more successful down the road, so that you make more sales and most importantly, turn those sales into cash in your bank account. The same goes if you are processing or marketing an agricultural product that you are receiving from your farmers. I can help you and help your farmers strengthen and grow your supply chain with viable farm operations.
Examples of what I can help with by bringing my 30 years of, financial management and ag banking, experience and perspectives, to agricultural producers, processors and suppliers, include improving cash flow and profitability, managing their business and finances, bringing in the next generation, putting together a projection, communicating a business plan, facilitating stakeholder discussions, restructuring a balance sheet, getting an existing lender or a new lender or a credit manager comfortable with a credit request and analyzing decisions that need to be made, etc.
AgriStrategies LLC will make a donation to the National FFA Foundation for each free consultation with me that is scheduled in April 2021 and accompanied by the April 2, 2021 Magnetic Ag newsletter.
Anyone who wants to learn more about how AgriStrategies LLC can help producers, suppliers, processors and other partners in the agricultural industry, or just wants to support the National FFA Foundation, should contact me to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to our discussion! Thank you!
How does your business succeed? What are the ingredients for success? Cash is one of those ingredients. What are the three steps for success?Making and receiving commitments is one of those steps. Who is involved in these commitments? How can an annual cash flow budget clarify the needed commitments and lead to success?
Examples of what I can help with by bringing my 30 years of, financial management and ag banking, experience and perspectives, include improving cash flow and profitability, bringing in the next generation, putting together a projection, communicating a business plan, restructuring a balance sheet, getting an existing lender or a new lender or a credit manager comfortable with a credit request and analyzing decisions that need to be made, etc.
If you are an agricultural producer, supplier or processor, or know of one, that might need some help with financial management, I would very much like to talk to you to see how I can help.
Hello! My name is Steve Kluemper. I’m glad you stopped by. AgriStrategies LLC is proud to be a part of this MABA 2021 Virtual Winter Conference. I’m here because I can help you, and your customers and suppliers in the agricultural industry supply chain, with financial management tasks. As you know, a supply chain is only as good as its weakest link. Where do you see the weakest link in your supply chain, from a financial management perspective? Is it you? Your customers? Your suppliers? I hope you will reach out to me, so we can have this discussion.
Examples of what I can help with by bringing my 30 years of, financial management and ag banking, experience and perspectives, include improving cash flow and profitability, putting together a projection, communicating a business plan, restructuring a balance sheet, getting an existing lender or a new lender or a credit manager comfortable with a credit request and analyzing decisions that need to be made, etc.
If you are in ag retail, I can not only help your business, but I can help you help your farmer customers, to make them more successful down the road, so that you make more sales and most importantly, turn those sales into cash in your bank account. Please contact me so we can discuss how I might be able to help you!
The same goes if you are processing or marketing agricultural products that you are receiving from your farmers. I can help you help your farmers with their financial management to strengthen and grow your supply chain with viable farm operations. Please contact me so we can discuss how I might be able to help you!
Lastly, if you are a producer or know of a producer that might need some help with their financial management, I would very much like to talk to you to see how I can help.
So, please contact me now with one of the many ways that are available to you at this virtual booth. I look forward to our discussion and hope you have a great conference! Thank you!
What does your business do? Who asks this question? Who needs to know? How do you communicate with them? What should your business do? What could your business do? What is your vision and sense of direction for your business? How do you gather insights into these questions from others and share your own insights with them?
Why are you in business? There are returns that you want from being in business. Some are personal. Some are strategic. Some are financial. How do you measure these returns to set goals and assess your level of success? What does success look like for you? What are the competitive assets and strengths of your business that are going to generate these returns? How do you maximize returns on these assets and strengths?
On December 8, 2020 during his webinar presentation to the International Agritourism Association, Steve Kluemper will help you answer these questions and walk you through a tool that you can use to measure and maximize your return on assets and as a framework for other returns regardless of your industry. You can sign up for the webinar at https://nafdma.com/event-4066299
Analyzing the many factors contributing to a business’ financial health is much like analyzing the many factors contributing to a person’s overall health.
A doctor may look at a patient’s temperature, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, blood tests, genetics, history, lifestyle, etc. to determine the individual’s overall health condition and the likelihood they may or may not have health issues in the future. Using just one of these items may be an indicator, but it won’t paint the whole picture.
Analyzing the “health” and future prognosis of a business is done much the same way. While some individual factors, like cash flow, may bear more immediate impact, to fully understand the financial health of the business, we need to look at many different factors. This is why we encourage managers to use historical and projected ratios to better assess their historical trends, current financial health and long-term outlook for their business. Understanding the trajectory of a particular ratio and the rate of change is important in determining the impact.
For businesses that are asset-intensive, it’s important to get the most out of those assets, with return on assets (ROA) being a crucial overall ratio to monitor. ROA is a ratio that measures the profits of the business relative to the assets of the business. However, there are many factors that go into both the numerator and denominator of the ROA ratio.
Using other ratios to analyze the performance of a business can help managers determine where they can maximize profitability and minimize the amount of ineffective assets to generate a higher ROA. The other ratios can help identify areas where the business operates well and can be expanded and also areas that may be costing more than is realized in revenue. The following list of ratios are a good start towards understanding some of those factors.
Total Assets per Unit of Production
Total Assets per Unit of Production – How many dollars of assets does it take to produce a unit of production? Keeping this ratio low can lead to a higher return on assets. This ratio can be affected by the amount of outsourcing, leasing and other ways to use assets in the production process without owning them. It can also be affected by the value placed on the assets. Comparing this ratio over time and to other businesses should be done with consistent values to avoid skewing the results.
Total Debts to Total Assets Ratio
Debt to Asset Ratio – How much debt is being used to own the assets? Keeping this ratio low is preferred by lenders to the business and gives the business the ability to grow quickly, pay dividends to the owners and/or withstand losses. However, keeping this ratio higher is preferred by owners who don’t need to invest as much capital to earn the profits of the business. This ratio also needs a consistent valuation of the assets to make comparisons with trends and other businesses more informative.
Current Assets to Current Debts Ratio
Current Ratio – How many assets are available that will convert into cash within the next 12 months (current assets) compared to the debts that are due in the next 12 months (current liabilities)? Keeping this ratio high gives the company liquidity to withstand cash flow adversity and take advantage of opportunities that are presented. However, carrying excess current assets such as cash, receivables and inventories doesn’t contribute greatly to returns and could be risky if they lose value and aren’t collectible.
Cash Flow to Debt Payments Ratio
Debt Coverage Ratio – How much cash flow is being generated from operations compared to the debt payments that are due during the same period? The higher this ratio is, the better the business is doing in meeting its debt obligations. When a business can’t meet its debt obligations with normal cash flow, then they must tap into their liquidity to fund debt payments. Lending institutions put a lot of weight on this ratio as they classify their risk, set interest rate and fee levels and assess the overall attractiveness of the borrower.
Profits per Unit of Production
Profits per Unit of Production – How much profit is being generated on every unit being produced? This ratio is especially helpful when comparing against other producers and comparing against the amount of assets that were utilized to produce each unit. Different business models can skew the results and comparisons usually require further analysis to review the revenue, expense and production drivers that generate the profit for each unit of production.
Profits to Total Revenues Ratio
Operating Profit Margin Ratio – How much operating profit is being earned from every dollar of revenue? Businesses need to maximize revenues and minimize costs to maximize operating profit margins. Managers should think about every cost in their business as an investment just like they would with a large capital expenditure. What return are they getting on each cost they are incurring? Minimizing costs isn’t necessarily the focus. Maximizing profits within the risk appetite of the business should be the focus.
Total Revenues to Total Assets Ratio
Asset Turnover Ratio – How many dollars of revenue are being generated from the assets that are being utilized? In general, businesses want to generate as much revenue from as few assets as possible. Without revenue, businesses can’t create income. Assets must be fully utilized to maximize their revenue potential over the full 12 months of the year. Businesses should sell assets that aren’t fully utilized and use those sale proceeds to invest in assets that can be fully utilized to increase revenue and income.
Profits to Total Assets Ratio – ROA
Return on Assets – How much operating profit is being generated from the assets that are being utilized? Multiplying the Asset Turnover Ratio by the Operating Profit Margin Ratio results in the Return on Assets. While computing these ratios on the entire business can help managers see the overall results, to do a more thorough analysis, each segment of the business should be reviewed for its own impact on the entire business.
Managers can evaluate their business practices by using these ratios to take some of the emotion out of the decision making. This is especially true in cases where “we’ve always done it that way”. Identifying highly productive assets can help managers look for ways to maximize an area where they are doing well. With this information they can improve or capture more profit on productive assets by pinpointing an area the business can use to break away from relying solely on low margin business.
Depending on the type of operation, areas that may have a low asset turnover ratio and low operating profit margin may involve machinery or equipment or buildings that are not as productive. For instance, if managers need to improve their return on assets on machinery, they may look at doing custom work or other services that better utilize the availability of their assets and talents. Or they may sell those assets, hire someone else do that work for them and redeploy that capital into a more productive asset.
Often times many business practices are done based on tradition or routine, rather than financial efficiency. However, we are seeing more businesses taking a closer look at what they do really well and finding ways to create a niche for their business that solves a problem for another business or consumer. Because these types of decisions can have a large impact on the business, it is critical that careful financial analysis is done on each asset prior to making major decisions.
The answer to the best asset to invest in will be different for each business based on their own unique set of circumstances. Uncovering the next layer of profitability based on financial ratios may require the use of a consultant who has the expertise to calculate and evaluate the ratios and help managers make decisions based on the outcomes of the analysis.
Tomorrow is not yesterday. Change is constant. Everyone manages change. Many are managing reactively for yesterday instead of proactively for tomorrow. Covid-19 has increased the pace of change and the number of potential future scenarios. Our ability to manage change must increase as well.
Trying to manage increased change reactively isn’t nearly as effective and efficient as using proactive strategic planning to manage change. Strategic planning is more about being prepared for the possibilities of potential future scenarios rather than trying to guess which particular future scenario will play out. Not that a strategic plan is fully developed for each potential future scenario, but each scenario needs a plan.
Dr. Gray discussed big, broad drivers of change as well as important strategies to be resilient, responsive and resourceful. I will review each of these later in this article. There was one slide that Dr. Gray included in his presentation but skipped over in the essence of time. I think that slide (Slide 10) might have been the most important slide in the entire deck.
Slide 10 presented an approach to change management that can help managers actually strategically plan for and most importantly implement change. While understanding the drivers of change and the potential scenarios that they could create, as well as having strategies to deal with these potential scenarios, are important, they don’t create value if they aren’t implemented. Implementation is crucial and is usually the hardest part. Slide 10 introduces the concept of agile implementation.
Agile implementation is the process of having small self-organizing, cross-functional teams move fast delivering minimally viable results in short daily/weekly sprints which allow for continuous changes and improvements based on current needs and continuous collaboration with stakeholders that align with a broad, written vision.
This allows the team to manage an implementation by breaking it up into several stages where earlier stages can be tested, implemented and evaluated while the next stages and continuous improvements are being designed and tested. The goal is to deliver value to customers faster with fewer headaches by quickly responding to change with flexibility.
Change Management Team Structures
Slide 10 presented the following team structures needed to blend strategic scenario thinking with agile implementation.
Transformation Team – Strategic Planning Scenario Development
Develop and analyze scenarios for multiple versions of the future – both positive and negative
Define trigger point thresholds for each scenario where the design teams will start their agile process to develop changes that are needed
Monitor environment to identify trigger points and add new or remove unneeded scenarios
This team needs to know the business well enough to know what could go wrong and what could go right due to any number of internal or external factors
This team can be a little larger since it needs to represent internal and external perspectives and won’t be meeting as frequently as the design team
Design Teams – Agile Design, Test, Pilot and Improve Process
Identify the design teams needed for the changes contemplated with each of the potential scenarios
Identify and prepare the internal and external resources needed for each team if they are triggered
Design, test, pilot and improve new concepts and ideas in a collaborative environment with agile sprints once a strategic planning scenario is triggered
These teams will favor action over research and testing over analysis to pilot concepts quickly when a scenario is triggered
Members of these teams will need to make the frequent meetings of the team a top priority when triggered
Implementation Team – Implement Changes and Share Results
Roll out changes to the entire organization that have already been piloted successfully in a part of the business by the design team
Document procedures and train employees to implement changes
Gather and evaluate results and feedback for the transformation and design teams
Set expectations for bold moves, “no regret” actions and changes that might not be the ultimate solution, but they are a start and are expected to be improved based on feedback, priorities and results.
By preparing ahead of time for potential scenarios (transformation team) and having resources identified and ready when needed to create and test new concepts (design team), the implementation team has a better chance of delivering a successful, quick and valuable change solution to the customer. The keys to success for this process include obtaining stakeholder buy-in, starting with small projects, focusing on tactical actions that can be accomplished over short periods, empowering and motivating the teams, assessing what is and isn’t working, being open to improvements and changes, collaborating and communicating frequently, and making changes as needed.
Important Strategies to be
Resilient, Responsive and Resourceful
Action over research and testing over analysis
Efficiency, cost and value creation focus
Human at the core
Operate based on how people work best
Maximize people engaging with each other
Acceleration of digital, tech and analytics
Combine new sources of data
Make better and faster decisions
Strengthen customer relationships
Purpose-driven customer playbook
Understand what customers will value
Develop new use cases and tailored experiences
Ecosystems and adaptability
Non-traditional collaborations within the supply chain
Big Broad Drivers of Change
Protectionism and restrictive attitudes
3 of 7 billion people are in closed-border countries
Local > Global
Supply chains sourcing closer to end markets
Smaller production capacity and less efficient plants
Increased costs will not be affordable for those at the margin
2. Resilience versus Efficiency
Resilience: Ability to absorb a shock and come out of it better than the competition
Anti-fragile: Ability to absorb a shock and come out of it better than before
Preparation: Must be able to decrease cost per unit of production – increase production and decrease costs
Is government aid reducing the drive to decrease costs?
May need to restructure supply chain while balancing costs, sales and risks
Resiliency is just as important to strategic thinking as cost and efficiency
Care – Tomorrow’s consumer wants to have a deeper relationship with their food and how it’s produced. They want to know how farmers and ranchers care for plant, animal, labor, land and environmental resources to produce safe food. They are demanding this all across the supply chain from farm to fork.
Commit – Producers should show society that they are serious about knowing and further reducing their environmental impacts and addressing important societal issues. If farmers and ranchers don’t commit to consumers about the stewardship they practice to create sustainable systems, who will?
Communicate – Since no one knows more about what is happening on farms and ranches or has more at stake than the owners, these farmers and ranchers need to embrace and communicate their role and desire to be sustainable stewards of the resources they use.
Dr. Mitloehner’s focus for this episode was helping beef and dairy producers explain the environmental impact of cows with a special emphasis on greenhouse gases and biodiversity as interpreted and summarized by my following non-scientific perspectives.
Curriculum concerning cows needs context
I think the reason this episode really hit home for me was because of an assignment that I was helping my 6th grader with during the Covid-19 school shut down and parent teaching experiment. The correct answer for his assignment according to the materials was that cows create a significant amount of greenhouse gases and are bad for biodiversity and the environment.
This is a common message and one that isn’t usually fully discussed, especially if the presenter has an anti-animal agriculture agenda. However, I didn’t have the facts to help explain the rest of the story to my son. I’d like to summarize the following takeaways from Dr. Mitloehner’s presentation that help frame up the environmental impacts of cows and would have been helpful to have when I was working with my son.
Cows and other ruminants create biogenic methane
Beef and dairy cows, as well as buffalo, antelope, sheep, goats, moose, deer, bison and giraffes are ruminant animals, meaning that they have the unique ability to ferment plant-based food in their stomachs prior to digestion which allows them to obtain nutrients from grasses, hay, corn stalks and other plants that humans and other animals can’t digest. A by-product of this fermentation process in the stomach is the production of biogenic methane which eventually ends up in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas and decomposes over 10 years.
The ruminant herd hasn’t increased over time
According to Dr. Mitloehner, before European settlement of North America, there were approximately 60 – 80 million bison and 40 million pronghorn antelopes for a total of approximately 100 – 110 million large ruminants roaming what is now the United States. Today the U.S. has 90 million beef cattle, 9 million dairy cows and only 1 million or so bison and antelope combined for a total of approximately 100 million large ruminants. The U.S. has merely replaced the wild ruminants in this country with domesticated ruminants and the ruminant herd hasn’t increased over time.
Ruminants are part of the biogenic methane carbon cycle
Cows and other ruminants are part of the biogenic methane carbon cycle where plants take carbon dioxide from the air and use water, sunlight and nutrients to create oxygen and carbohydrates including cellulose. Then ruminants take cellulose and oxygen and nutrients from the plants along with water to create human food, milk, nutrients, organic fertilizer, carbon dioxide, biogenic methane and other byproducts. The biogenic methane is released into the air and converts to carbon dioxide through a process called hydroxyl oxidation over 10 years to start the cycle all over again.
Biogenic methane is decomposing as it’s being produced
According to Dr. Mitloehner’s research, the biogenic methane carbon cycle is currently so sustainable that the amount of biogenic methane in the atmosphere from cows that is converted to carbon dioxide each year for use by plants is equal to the amount of biogenic methane that is produced by cows each year.
Greenhouse gases from oil continue to build
While methane is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming, it’s important to differentiate between different greenhouse gases. When greenhouse gases are produced from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil for our transportation and energy needs, those gases go up in the atmosphere and don’t decompose for thousands of years. They call this process of mining carbon from below the earth’s surface, burning it and releasing it into the atmosphere stock gas since it only stocks the greenhouse gases that don’t go away. So far, the world has used around 50% of the carbon that’s underground on this planet according to Dr. Mitloehner.
Herd numbers and biogenic methane levels aren’t increasing
The current cow herd is not adding additional methane to the atmosphere because the biogenic carbon cycle is in balance where the methane produced by cows is converted to CO2 and used by the plants to feed the cows in a sustainable cycle. Biogenic methane is a flow gas which is being produced and destroyed at an equal rate unless the industry produces less methane which leads to a net cooling effect on the environment.
Cows can cool the climate while feeding the world
If you decrease methane emissions by decreasing cow numbers or by using anerobic digesters, feed additives, or manure separators, then you are actively pulling carbon out of the atmosphere which creates global cooling. Cattle producers can be a solution to global warming.
In fact, California is subsidizing the livestock industry’s cost of capturing methane that is then converted into renewable natural gas and used by vehicle fleets to replace diesel fuel while lowering methane emissions. This is the new gold rush in California according to Dr. Mitloehner and can be a model for other states and nations that want to subsidize practices that reduce greenhouse gases.
Cows don’t need to compete with humans for food
The need to increase production to feed the world has been met with concerns about reducing biodiversity and bringing marginal lands into production in the U.S. and around the globe. Cows are actually well positioned to show their sustainability and promote biodiversity while increasing production since they don’t need to compete with humans for food because of their ruminant stomachs.
Only cows can produce food from 70% of all agricultural land
Dr. Mitloehner stated that 70% of all agricultural land in the world and United States is marginal land that can only produce grass pastures. This land can only be used to take carbon from the atmosphere to grow grasses which aren’t digestible by humans or non-ruminant animals. In California, 20% of agricultural byproducts such as almond hulls, cotton seeds and human inedible products end up in cows.
Cows step in to convert these plant products to human food as only they can without needing to bring additional acres into production. This process then releases carbon back to the atmosphere in the form of methane from the cows which is oxidized for plants to use again in this sustainable cycle.
Each cow is producing more milk
In 1867, the U.S. had 9 million dairy cows producing enough food for 30 million people. By 1950, the U.S. had 25 million dairy cows. Today, the U.S. is back to 9 million dairy cows producing food for 330 million people, an 11x increase from 1867 with the same number of cows and 60% more milk produced with 9 million cows today than the 25 million cows producing U.S. milk in 1950, according to Dr. Mitloehner’s research. Since the U.S. dairy herd has decreased since 1950, this has created a cooling effect since then.
Each cow is producing more meat relative to greenhouse gases
Dr. Mitloehner stated that the U.S. produces 18% of the global beef with 8% of the global beef cattle. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that the North American beef supply chain is already more than 35% more efficient from a greenhouse gas perspective than the global average due to production efficiencies.
Cows are producing more milk and beef with less emissions
Better genetics, nutrition and vet care for the cows have driven efficiency improvements and a net cooling effect on the environment given the oxidation of the methane. Just like getting more miles from every gallon of gas is important for providing needed transportation and reducing emissions at the same time, getting more milk and beef from every cow is also important for providing needed nutrition and reducing emissions.
Cows produce natural organic fertilizers
When consumers want plant-based foods instead of beef and milk, those plants are usually fertilized with products creating a larger negative environmental impact due to the use of resources extracted from the earth to produce those nutrients. Even when consumers want organic food, a sustainable animal production system is still needed to provide the organic fertilizers for the organic crops. According to Dr. Mitloehner, dairy manure fertilizer components of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are in a sustainable ratio similar to what the plants that produce the dairy feed need.
Less efficient food systems have an environmental cost
When consumers want food from less efficient food production systems such as natural, organic, etc. that use more land and animals for each unit of production, the production inefficiencies and mitigation costs of the environmental impacts compared to conventional production practices are factored into the price to compensate for these inefficiencies and mitigation efforts. This aligns the costs of these extra food attributes with those who want them and can afford them.
Communicate the positive impact cows have on the environment
Groups like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Wildlife Fund understand the need to balance food production and biodiversity and see the way cows can meet both objectives. The World Wildlife Fund has recently teamed up with Cargill and Burger King and ranchers in the Northern Great Plains to launch a grassland restoration program where they will take 8,000 acres of marginal crop land and convert it back to ecologically diverse grasslands with beef cattle as the primary grazers in the ecosystem to maintain it. This is just one more example of the way cows can have a positive impact on the environment, a story that needs to be communicated.
AgriStrategies knows what lenders want and helps you position your business to attract capital in a timely and cost-effective manner.
AgriStrategies assists your business in communicating with your lenders in a way that reduces the questions they have, the time it takes them to answer your requests and the costs involved in working with your business which improves your profitability and your lenders’ profitability.
AgriStrategies improves the quality of the financial management of your business so that your profits improve, your compliance with your lenders’ requirements are met and your lenders’ risks, interest rates and fees are reduced.
AgriStrategies projects future cash flows under various scenarios and builds a plan that addresses the funding needs for each of those scenarios which minimizes uncomfortable surprises for you and your lenders.
AgriStrategies analyzes your business decisions and communicates the rationale for those decisions to, and incorporates feedback from, all stakeholders including the owners, investors, managers, coaches, employees, lenders, regulators, customers, suppliers, and community members to improve the probability of success and acceptance of the decisions.
AgriStrategies is a third-party, independent, advisor that will bring great perspectives and assistance to your management team on an ongoing basis and help your lenders better understand your business and your industry.
AgriStrategies focuses on defining success, assessing strengths, and then leveraging those strengths to achieve success with a plan that shows lenders the potential of your business.
How can we improve the cash flow, profitability and financial and risk management of our business and justify the reinvestment that is needed for our business?
How should we communicate our vision for the future, manage the business and especially the finances, facilitate discussions with lenders, vendors and investors, analyze decisions that need to be made, and use independent perspectives to run our business?
How will we find the time and expertise to answer these questions, keep projects and ongoing operations on track and periodically review actual results and upcoming plans?
How are our business model, strategic partners, management philosophies, risk appetite, perspectives and decision making going to change to adapt to the future of our business?
How do we make sure that we communicate with all existing and potential stakeholders such as the owners, investors, managers, coaches, employees, lenders, regulators, customers, suppliers, and community members that have a say in the decisions that need to be made for our business?
How should we assess and leverage our strengths and the internal and external environments to be sure we have the right perspectives, plans and goals for our business?
How can we define success for our business and create a plan to achieve it?
How will we identify, approve and work with internal and external stakeholders to meet their needs and obtain the funding and approvals for our business?
How are we going to make sure we have the time and resources for developing knowledge, skills, abilities, and procedures to achieve success for our business?
Steve grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Southwest Indiana, earned a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University in Agricultural Economics and ten years later earned a Food and Agribusiness Masters in Business Administration degree from Purdue. Steve has a passion for bringing his agricultural background and education to others involved with the future of agriculture as a way to pay it forward for everything agriculture has given him and his family.
Prior to founding AgriStrategies LLC in 2019, Steve lived in Indiana, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan during his 28 year professional career as an agribusiness banker with business development, portfolio management, underwriting, credit approval, policy/procedure administration and personnel management and development responsibilities.
He has coached agribusiness management teams including producers, processors and suppliers from startups to large corporations across the U.S. He focuses on improving the health of the business, not just fixing the symptoms. He’s worked in various agricultural industries understanding the ins and outs of all aspects of the supply chain.
He has arranged funding for agribusinesses from capital providers in the form of unsecured cash flow lending, receivable and inventory financing, equipment and facility leasing and loans, real estate lending, and second lien financing as a single lender and as part of multi-bank syndications.
KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE
Steve is experienced in and has a passion for coaching and assisting his agribusiness management teams regarding what he and they can do to maximize the value of their business and make themselves most attractive to capital providers. This is done after assessing the businesses’ situation and setting realistic goals. He has worked with dairy, poultry, swine, cattle, row crops, vegetable, permanent planting, greenhouse, grain, feed, farm supply, processing and other livestock and crop businesses of all sizes. He is also experienced in and passionate about finding capital partners that have the risk appetite to achieve the agribusiness management team’s goals and objectives by utilizing his vast network of industry professionals.
How are your cash receipts going to be impacted by COVID-19?
FAPRI projects a $32.2 billion decrease in farm cash receipts in 2020 due to COVID-19. As you work with your consultants and advisors to determine your future, what do your projections show for 2020 and 2021 based on what you know under various scenarios?
In a recent farmdoc presentation, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Nick Paulson and International Food Policy Research Institutes’s Joe Glauber showed three scenarios that the WTO is using to project estimated global GDP impacts. Are you looking at similar scenarios?
Have a business plan including a marketing plan and work with it even when you are busy doing other things. Your consultant can help with this to minimize the time it takes. There will be opportunities to lock in prices in 2021 and 2022 that you won’t regret just like there have been for 2020.
The cards are pretty well dealt for 2020 and they will need to be played appropriately to get to 2021. That doesn’t mean that risks can’t be managed differently in 2021. This plan presented above is one of many strategies that are available.
Work with your consultant to set a strategy that works for you including the time involved, the frequency of review and most importantly, one that reflects the changing environment you are operating in.
What are you doing to make sure you get your fair share of the cash?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is throwing a tremendous amount of cash at agriculture to make up for some of the lost revenues. The latest reports show a new $16 billion in direct government payments going to agriculture with $9.6 billion for the livestock industry ($5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy, $1.6 billion for hogs), $3.9 billion for row crop producers (with most expected to go to corn and the rest going to soybeans, cotton and others), $2.1 billion for specialty crop producers and $500 million for other crops.
How much each farmer receives will be largely based on how the USDA wants to support large vs. small producers by using individual dollar caps vs. basing it solely on production. The government is even opening up some of their Small Business Administration loan programs to agriculture which is a first but again is focused on small businesses, not large agriculture corporations with over 500 employees. If you don’t feel like you’re getting your share, notice that the poultry industry is projected to have a revenue decrease larger than dairy, yet is not getting any allocation in the $16 billion.
Are your costs generating cash?
In this environment, cash expenditures must be critically examined to prioritize needs before wants. Some commodity input costs such as energy, protein, purchased livestock, fuel and fertilizer are naturally coming down while others such as labor, DDGs and imported supplies might be increasing due to availability.
The Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture has predicted in a recent webinar that before the 2021 U.S. corn crop is harvested, there could be enough corn from the 2020 crop left over to meet almost 30% of the annual corn demand. That would be a record high level going all the way back to the over supply and resulting low prices of the 1980’s.
While low corn and bean prices are good if you are buying feed, it is not good if you are buying or renting high priced land to produce a crop that doesn’t cash flow. Cash rents far exceed returns to the land and must come down to reflect the profitability of farming those acres.
Now would be a good time to have a projection that can be tweaked with updated scenarios that will look quite different from those that were run two months ago. Projections must be developed and an emphasis on both business spending and personal financial habits will be critical.
Be thinking about fall fertilizer, fuel and feed costs now and have a plan as you go throughout the year. Have a rolling 12 month plan where you at least look at opportunities before you produce the product. Focus on field by field and animal by animal decisions to manage cash.
What are your top spending and investment priorities given various scenarios? What could impact the availability of key resources, supplies, processors and markets? Closely monitoring projections and activities will be crucial as you manage your business.
Number Two, Communicate
Communicating with Dashboards
In Dr. David Kohl’s article for Farmer Mac he talks about the importance of communicating with stakeholders. Dashboards are a great way to do that. His dashboard benchmarks for farmers and lenders is shown above.
As you work with your consultant to build your dashboard that you use to run your business and change it with various metrics over time, decide which metrics are appropriate to share with your spouse, family, employees, customers, vendors, lenders, investors, etc.
Give these various stakeholders a dashboard that is appropriate for them. Ask them to have one that they share with you as well. Make sure to include metrics about how you’re doing personally and emotionally and seek input from your stakeholders on how they’re doing and see you doing as well.
Communication is even more important in these volatile times. While things change rapidly, having a process to keep your most important stakeholders informed and able to provide their input is crucial. Don’t go through this alone. Let others pull on the rope with you and appreciate the successes and failures together.
Communicating with Capital Providers
Timely, accurate and concise communication with capital providers such as lenders, vendors and investors is very important, especially when you want them to relax rates and terms, defer payments, restructure obligations or even provide more capital now or in the future.
In this environment, Dr. Kohl talks about the need to have a written marketing and business plan that lays out the details of your future plans and monitors economic shifts to justify these requests and show how the stakeholders shouldn’t be harmed.
The plans will need to be clear and concise and supported well enough so that the person you present it to can use it to present it to their superiors and regulators who usually make the final decision without meeting with you.
Try to find ways to establish a relationship with the credit analysts and credit committees to build your support within their organization. Be ready to take the time or use your consultant to answer follow-up questions and provide additional details.
“As headwinds facing the agricultural economy persist, insured institutions must be prepared for agricultural borrowers to face financial challenges by employing appropriate governance, risk management, underwriting, and credit administration practices.” “Managing risk over the life of a loan includes: carefully documenting all lien perfections and other loan instruments; closely overseeing sale proceeds; conducting timely, independent collateral inspections; and developing a process for monitoring collateral values.” “A continuous credit grading program can help management identify credit risk early and take preemptive steps to prevent further deterioration.”
Keep in mind this guidance coming from the FDIC that will be seeing tremendous stress across most industry portfolios at their banks and especially in agriculture which has been struggling for a few years while the rest of the economy was improving. Everyone has someone to answer to and they need you to help them gather the answers.
Number three, buy or bury the competition
Assessing your Competitive Strengths and Cash Resources
Buy, Bury, Be Bought or Be Buried. Which of these four paths will you take? What are your strengths? What resources do you have available to you? You need competitive strengths and cash resources to execute your plan. With only cash resources and no competitive strengths, you can potentially buy strengths to be competitive. With only competitive strengths with no cash resources, you will need to raise cash to be competitive, usually by selling all or part of the business. With neither cash resources, nor competitive strengths, you will be buried.
Answering these questions and determining how to manage your business in this new environment can be accomplished during the process of developing your business model and a strategic plan that will generate cash and manage risk. AgriStrategies LLC can help you with this.
Excess Cash is Better than Insufficient Cash
Take matters in to your own hands. Ask for liquidity from lenders, vendors and investors when it’s available so that you have the cash to run and grow your business. Don’t wait until it’s needed. Make your case that you are thinking ahead and have a business plan as compared to others that are just going to wait and see what happens until they are bought or buried.
Maximizing liquidity and cash from all sources is crucial for the success of your business. Even if your business doesn’t need it, one of your key vendors or customers or even competitors might need a lifeline that could benefit your business. It’s important to put yourself in a situation to take advantage of these opportunities.
Cash is King. Communication is Crucial. Crush the Competition.
With Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order and similar orders across the country, we are all spending a lot more time at home with our spouses and children. This is a great blessing. To help keep them safe, I am suggesting that there is something we know we should do and now would be a good time to do it as we’re looking to be productive but need breaks from work, school and Covid-19 news.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sponsors the Healthier Michigan website which offers Tips for Prescription Safety, Storage and Disposal. I suggest that you read and follow their tips. Why do I bring this up? Because their advice on things such as refraining from storing prescription bottles in dark places, not disposing of original packaging, never storing multiple medications in one bottle, locking up medications and more can help keep your family safe.
I have spent these past seven months being thankful that the situation didn’t turn out as bad as it could have, looking for a new job after resigning from my employer who was embarrassed by the news about me on social media, convincing the court system to dismiss all charges after they heard the facts, trying to find the right time to tell my children, family, friends, co-workers and prospective employers about the whole story, and determining where I go from here. I have received a lot of support from my family, friends, former co-workers and prospective employers to lead me to start AgriStrategies LLC and move past this unfortunate event. It definitely didn’t turn out to be the best time to start a business that preferably involves lots of face to face discussions, but video and phone will have to be sufficient for now.
This could have all been avoided if I had listened to the advice that was available. So, take some time to properly store your prescriptions to protect your family and avoid preventable accidents and misuse of prescription drugs.
I am sitting here today thinking about what success looks like. For two of my sons, their success is enjoying their first snow day of the school year today with no responsibilities and no on-line learning to get in the way of a highly desired day off that didn’t seem like it would ever come. For my other two sons who are in college and have far fewer, if any, snow days, their success is good grades this week to show for their efforts as they head out for spring break this weekend for their well-deserved week off.
As Lent started today, the priest challenged us to set a goal and then share it with an accountability partner. Success is achieved when we make ourselves better. However, if we could do it on our own, we would have already done it. Accountability helps us define, communicate and commit to our goal and have a higher probability of achieving it. We don’t need to share it with the world unless we want the world to help us achieve it.
I love this post from Leadership First. It’s not a competition with others, it’s a competition between me today and me yesterday. Yes, we are competing with others every day but it is really our best against their best. What are we doing to give our best? We need to define success to be our best.
At AgriStrategies, I can help you define success, which sometimes can be more difficult than actually achieving it. It is important to get out of the mindset of competing with others where you have less control and focus instead on competing with yourself yesterday where you are more in control of achieving success. Once we’ve defined success, we can create the plan to communicate it to others that will help you achieve it and hold you accountable for it to increase the likelihood of success.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my youngest son Eli and go home to visit my dad for three days for his 75th Birthday. The father/son bond that we experience in agriculture in the family business is so remarkably strong. Our dads are our mentors, our teachers, our disciplinarians, our friends, our excuse to get out of the house when we want to, our reason for getting up early when we don’t want to, our first experience with bosses that we don’t always agree with, and where we get a tremendous amount of our common sense, work ethic, knowledge, stubbornness and love for the land, animals and family that are part of who we are.
On Friday, the three of us went to the National Farm Machinery Show. Dad loves going to that show and talking with people. I hadn’t been in a few years so it was good to see it is still as well attended as it was when I went when I was in FFA and the tobacco companies handed out free samples to anyone! It was also good bonding time for Eli and I as he asked questions and picked up all the free candy that he could. Eli was also excited to see the three houses in Louisville that we lived in before we moved to Michigan when he was 2 years old.
On Saturday, my brothers and I got to help Dad with chores on the farm and then got to have dinner together. I know my brothers and my sister and their families (see our family picture) get called on a lot to help since they live on the edges of the farm, but it was special to me to be helping and working with them in a small way on Dad’s birthday.
We stacked lumber that was cut from a tree on the farm. That reminded me of when I was Eli’s age and ended up with stitches in my head from a pry bar that slipped when Dad was moving lumber. I think about playing in the grain bins, riding on tractors and all of the other unsafe things we did as kids and how lucky we are that all we lost was three toes, my brother’s, not mine.
After stacking lumber, we went through partially frozen mud to feed cows, we helped a new calf and her mother deal with some eating and udder health problems and we moved equipment around to make it all happen. It always amazes me the simple tools that come in so very handy to get the jobs done like good gates to keep things where they belong, number 9 wire to hold things together, a pickup truck, utility tractor and ATV to move people, animals, equipment and feed, ether to start the cold tractor, and of course the trusty pocket knife and pliers that are a part of Dad’s wardrobe.
That night we celebrated Dad’s birthday with a cake made by my niece, John Deere tractor cookies, a delicious supper made by my sister-in-law, a pile of birthday cards from friends and relatives collected by my sister and topped it off with watching the first three episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard, a Friday night family tradition in the 1980’s before Mom and Dad would watch Dallas.
The next morning before leaving for church we found that two calves had gotten out and needed to be rounded up and put back in their pen. Another tradition of the cattle getting out right at the least opportune time.
My time with Eli this past weekend was just as rewarding for me as the time spent with Dad. Interacting with both of them together and individually generated some great memories. When I’m another 50% older, I hope that Eli and the rest of my boys have similar feelings about me that I do about my Dad. I hope they are proud of me and thankful for what I’ve been for them.
In my line of work, I get to work with a lot of great farm families like mine. Understanding the family dynamics, having and knowing how to use the tools of the trade and managing risks are extremely important for me to help them and for them to succeed. It is so rewarding to be able to help their businesses succeed so that they can continue to have their own generational experiences of working together for the good of their business, but most importantly, for the good of their family.