SKILLS DEVELOPMENT FOR ENTREPRENEURS IN AGRICULTURE
Within the agricultural industry, entrepreneurs need to come to grips with the fact that,
regardless of whether they are farming, selling fertiliser, building dams, or cultivating crops,
grasping how a business works is essential to success.
Entrepreneurs are often exceptional at devising excellent business ideas, but a lack of real
business management knowledge results in a lack of funding. Without a sound business plan,
the business fails before it has made it past infancy. Business leaders must understand the
differences between a business account and a personal account, a loan and an overdraft, the
principles of Human Resources, salaries, or the value of maintaining a good reputation as an
employer. Every company requires structure, even if it comprises only one employee – and
creating structure requires skill and knowledge.
As visionaries, entrepreneurs occasionally struggle to see the gap in their own skillset, gaps
that go deeper and wider than agricultural knowledge. These entrepreneurs require training,
mentoring and coaching from a business point of view. This ensures that their businesses can
continue in a sustainable fashion and flourish. Sustainability is key.
Part of an entrepreneur’s power is their personality, so rather than trying to change them,
training should focus on adding on to their skills – or learning how to partner with the right
people that already have the needed skills. Entrepreneurs have a unique purpose. Training is
absolutely necessary, but the focus of training is not to turn them into something else. This is
rather to empower them to bring in the right experts in the right fields, without losing control
of the business operations.
In instances where entrepreneurs are able to acquire funding, without the skills to manage
these funds effectively, the business will still fail – and lose a lot of money in the process. An
agricultural entrepreneur may know how to make organic compost, but can they market and
sell it? Can they manage the staff required to manufacture the compost, and do they know
how to deal with the bank? These crucial business concepts must be understood; often failure
is not an indication of a bad business concept.
However, simply teaching them the skills is not enough. It may not be in their nature to utilise
these skills, even once they have them. As such, it’s essential to help them to apply these
concepts, so that when they have someone providing the service in these areas (an employee,
a consultant, or a mentor) the wool cannot be pulled over their eyes. Grasping financial
management principles, for example, won’t make a business owner an accountant, but it will
help them to oversee their accountant’s work and make better decisions.
The Institute of People Development (IPD), for example, has worked with many
entrepreneurs as they strive to start training companies, and assisting entrepreneurs across
the agricultural sector in honing their skills. This learning journey must be considered as a
Often, a farmhand that has worked on farms for his/her entire life will think s/he knows
everything about the industry, and can easily start their own farming business. Yet, while they
will have excellent skillsets in certain areas, they will not have in-depth knowledge of the
entire sphere of work.
The key is to do some reconnaissance, to observe other businesses and look at what makes
an agricultural businesssuccessful. Businesses fall flat because their founders don’t know how
to sell their skills and produce. From sales to financial management, every business
management skill is critical to growing a fruitful business. The business can manufacture the
best organic compost on the planet, but if no one is selling it, who’s going to know?
Entrepreneurs must put time and effort into creating a business plan before launching their
enterprise. This process allows them to identify skills gaps, and areas where expert assistance
will be required. It gives the entrepreneur a core understanding of what they need – grasping
that they may not need to do everything themselves, but they must always understand the
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