Go Rural for Business

Top Ten Tips for Succession Planning

25th November 2014

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Top Ten Tips for Succession by Sian Bushell

www.sianbushellassociates.co.uk

Sian Bushell recently facilitated a family business meeting with the McConchie Family, Scottish Enterprise Agritourism Monitor Farmers in the South of Scotland.

1. Plan for succession as soon as your children are born. This means that there is time to ensure that all children are treated fairly without endangering the core business.

2. It is good business governance to review succession at least once a year to ensure that everything is on track and consider any changes that may have happened.

3. Talk about succession with the family frequently and openly so that it does not become a taboo subject. Include all family members who are linked to the business including in-laws.

4. Have a proper plan for retirement. What does retirement mean to you? Put a date on when you will be stepping back from the responsibility of running the business. Where will you be living? Have you enough pension? If not where will the top up for the pension be coming from? If it is from the family business work out exactly how much will be needed each year so that it can be part of the business budget.

5. Everyone should have a Will – no excuses! The contents of the Will should be discussed with the beneficiaries.

6. If a young family member is coming back into the family business, have a proper plan of integration. This will include where they will live, what hours they work, payment, responsibilities and how to include them in the decision-making.

7. Consider Power of Attorney for those in the business.

8. Have proper, regular, business meetings to ensure effective communication between everyone working within the business.

9. When considering succession, the assets and the business should be thought of separately.

10. Use good professionals at every step. Always check with a tax expert before taking any course of action. Always have a proper partnership agreement. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve means the professionals can work to what you want far easier. However remember succession is not just about tax. Any plan has to work for the family.

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Top 10 Tips on Branding for Agritourism Businesses

20th October 2014

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Top 10 Tips on Branding for Agritourism Businesses

These top 10 Tips were discussed at the recent Scottish Enterprise Agritourism Monitor Farm meeting at Peel Farm. Read the full report here  Our USP and Brand, Meeting 3 Tuesday 30th September Peel Farm Report.docx

 

1. The importance of “our story”, particular in Agritourism businesses where this differentiates the Agritourism offering to consumers from other types of experiences.

2. The importance of asking customers what they want, listening to their needs and acting on this important information.

3. People buying from an Agritourism business are buying a part of the life that the owner has – whether this be food and drink produced on the farm or the friendliness and professionalism of the family growing this produce, the care put into producing these crops and selling them to people, the culture of the family unit, the role of farmers as guardians of the environment.

4. The importance of not only staff training but motivating and inspiring staff and ensuring they are an extension of the family and they have the skills and knowledge to tell your story on your behalf (essential as a business expands).

5. Shopping in a Farm Shop is a lifestyle choice and not a necessity for consumers.

6. “Ardross Farm Shop stands for fresh, local, trust, integrity, family and hardwork.” This is what makes up the Ardross USP.

7. The importance of a strong brand and the message that this brand represents.

8. The ethos of Anna and Ross Mitchell, owners of Castleton Farm Shop to focus on excellent customer service and a fantastic dining experience sets the high standards which both customers and staff relate to.

9. The importance of being true to customers and not putting your brand to anything which is not produced in the farm shop. Customers of farm shops expect this.

10. Using social media and e-communications to tell your story to customers.

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My Views on Italian Agritourism by Stephen Melville, St Andrews Country Cabins

7th October 2014

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My Views on Italian Agritourism

by Stephen Melville, St Andrews Country Cabins

The trip emphasised that the success of agri tourism in Italy is primarily down to the strong support provided by the government in the form of tax breaks, grant funding and dedicated staff that help to promote and raise awareness of the sector. The profile of agri tourism is raised through publications, brown signage and presumably media coverage / advertising of some form although we did not see this. This is in stark contrast to the Scottish experience where individuals must promote everything themselves (with the exception of expensive brown signs).

It was also quite notable just how important the role of the family was in the success of the businesses we visited. In each instance young and old family members were involved. This in turn meant that visitors were able to experience the life, history and passion from across the ages which in turn made visits to agri tourism businesses all the more memorable and interesting. We were made aware of the story behind the family and the farm history which enhances the emotional journey and makes the experience more memorable for the visitor.

It was interesting that in order to be classed as an agri-tourism the business still had to be an active farm and the agri-tourism activities had to be based on the land / in the old farm buildings. This in turn enhances the experience for visitors as they are able to feel closer to the business and its long history. I am not sure that such a strategy would be successful in Scotland and in many cases such a policy would lead to a loss of efficiency and scale which is so very important to the success of diversified businesses.

The Italian experience is also quite different in many respects from what can be achieved in Scotland. The Italians have a better climate, a different, more relaxed approach to life and they seem to have a much lower cost of living. The lower cost of living is often evident in the cheaper food / drink, but also the quality of some of the farm businesses, the restaurants and the accommodation facilities. Perhaps due to the better weather and the fact that visitors are able to spend more time outside, there is not the requirement for such high quality facilities. For many Scottish businesses it would not be possible to successfully operate with the perceived lower standards as the paying public would simply not tolerate this.

Scottish agri-tourism has a great deal to offer and there are many fine examples of successful family orientated businesses across the country. Pulling these together to create a unified voice that can successfully lobby and gain the attention from the Scottish Government and its associated bodies can only be a good thing. Farming, the countryside, high quality food from the land and rural activities are the backbone of what typifies Scotland and what makes Scotland such a successful and popular tourist destination.

For more information on St Andrews Country Cabins see www.standrewscountrycabins.co.uk

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My views on Italian Agritourism by Nikki Storrar, Ardross Farm Shop

7th October 2014

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Learning Journey in Italy

My Views on Italian Agritourism by Nikki Storrar, Ardross Farm Shop.

Passion, commitment and enthusiasm shone through every agritourismo we visited during our trip to Tuscany and Umbria.

Despite each business being located in the most beautiful landscape it was overwhelmingly obvious that it was the people who made our visits special. The stories they told and the sparkle in their eyes conveyed their passion.

There were however many differences between the businesses we visited and ours, most notably size. It made me wonder how we can convey our story when many of us don’t work every day actually serving our customers. I concluded that ever piece of literature we print, every member of staff we have has to know and tell our story. As a business we inspire, reconnect and gain trust.

I would like to convey this to not only our customers but also to the people who haven’t visited us yet. This will be my first project when I return.

The group we travelled with was fantastic, as was the organisation by Go Rural. To spend time with likeminded people in similar businesses for such a long time in itself was beneficial. I’m sure everyone gained something from that experience alone.

Trips to each other’s businesses have already been organised and a great deal learnt from each other. Overall is was a brilliant experience and I have a list of things I would like to improve in our business as a result.

For more on Ardross Farm Shop visit Ardross Farm Shop

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My Views on Italian Agritourism by John Sinclair, Craigies Farm Shop

6th October 2014

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Learning journey to Tuscany and Umbria, September 2014

by John Sinclair, Craigies Farm Shop.

This was a fantastic experience and a really well organised trip.

The key points I learned are as follows -

• The Italians are very proud and protective of their agricultural sector and it is clear that there is far more collaboration between national and local government to help this sector. It is also clear that the farming unions have agritourism very high up their list of priorities, unlike the NFUS. The farmers unions in Italy organise farmers markets and even run a large farm shop in the centre of large towns. Local government interpretation of European rules and regulations are totally different to that in the UK, for example cheese and meats are sold at ambient temperatures in Italy where they would require refrigeration in Scotland. Agritourism is recognised and heavily pushed by the Italian equivalent of Visit Scotland, it is recognised that it attracts visitors from home and abroad.

• Farm sizes are a lot smaller in the areas we visited and I would suggest that the businesses we visited are more lifestyle businesses with little ambition to grow. The policy regarding support for agritourism limits the bed numbers depending on the size of the agricultural side of the business. Whilst this keeps quaint experiences it means that businesses wanting to grow need to develop with out support.

• Restrictions are put on agritourism business’s on the food they serve. Different regions have different rules. This leads to a very authentic experience for visitors. At Craigie’s we would probably hit these percentages but what we need to so better is to communicate the story behind the food. We need to work on achieving my original vision of good simple local food enjoyed around a kitchen table.

• The businesses we visited were all very good at telling the story of how they farm. Whilst we are fairly good at this we do need to look at how we can improve. We do have more challenges due to the scale of our operation, however I am sure that we can do what we do better. There may also be an opportunity to lay on organised tours and food experiences for visitors to the area.

Thank you to Caroline and Sheena from Go Rural for all of the work they put if arranging this visit. It was also great to meet up with other businesses from around Scotland, I am sure we will all keep in touch.

For more information on Craigies Farm Shop visit www.craigies.co.uk

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