I recently had the pleasure to speak with one of the most passionate business owners I have ever met.
I really enjoy talking to non-farming business owners, and seeing whether the lessons can be translated back into a family farming context. In this case, the answer was a resounding yes.
It was clear they were passionate about their family-run business.
The person was in pest control, an industry I thought was pretty straightforward. How wrong I was!
The level of technology and real time measuring of business performance was right up there, or even supersedes the best farming businesses I have seen.
The business started in the 1980s - the classic 35-year overnight success. I would be certain the family values that helped form the business are still there in spades - only the technology has changed. They seem to be well and truly ahead of the curve, and on a road to continual improvement.
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The other facet that stuck out was the longevity of some of the employees.
You see this a lot in farming businesses as well. This is a clear sign of not only adequate financial compensation, but more importantly, a fantastic culture. Money can't buy the latter.
They work closely with their accountants, not just on tax and compliance issues, but also with reviewing financial performance throughout the year. I think the best accountants provide more of a holistic service - not just talk about it, but actually do it.
Because of the size and sophistication of this particular business, they are able to tender for government and large corporate jobs. This is where having a really good handle on your margins and profit drivers is imperative. These tenders can be large and a solid profit can turn into a loss in a blink of an eye if you're not on top of the numbers.
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Another aspect of dealing with large organisations is understanding - and enforcing - the terms of the contract. The family business type of ethos isn't usually front and centre with the counterparties, and you need to be aware of any potential pitfalls.
One feature of this business that really fascinated me was the technology used in scheduling jobs each day.
Imagine having multiple vans out of the road with the length and timing of jobs constantly changing. If there wasn't a sound structure for this, inefficiencies could easily creep in.
This business uses extensive app technology that gives them a lot of control of what technicians are going where, and the ability to reschedule work-flow in pretty much real time. I can only imagine the productivity gains this delivers.
There are always lessons to be learned from observing successful businesses in a different industry.
The take home messages for me from this conversation were: having a passion for your occupation is a must, as is the innate desire for continuous improvement.
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