People management key for farm expansion

UK farmer Ed Dale spoke at today’s Positive Farming conference on the importance of people management for farm enterprises in the run up to the abolition of dairy quotas in 2015.

From Cheshire, his family’s farm business has over the past 10 years expanded from managing 220 cows in one herd with one employee to managing 2,000 cows in six herds over a 45-mile radius. He now has 14 full-time employees and 15 part-time.

In terms of advice for people management, he said it was vital to start with the right people.

“Above all else we want people who will fit in with our culture, have the right attitude and are team players,” he explained. “They must be honest, enthusiastic and have the potential to be trained to do the job.”

He said clarity was also key. “Our aim is that people know exactly what we are trying to achieve as a business, what our systems are processes are and why they are important.”

He also said delegation and responsibilities were important.

We think every member of any team should be given an area to take responsibility even if it’s only a small thing and then we allow them to get on with it. The real skill is in deciding how much rope to give them, how much support and checking to do, and how much we leave them alone.

He stressed that non of the above can happen without excellent communication.

“It’s a two way street so we try to make sure we are listening to what’s going on as well as talking. We focus more on asking questions than issuing orders with the aim being to train people to think for themselves and take ownership of what they are doing.”

He added: “Everyone thrives much more in a culture where they are appreciated and praised than one where every little thing is criticised, so we encourage ‘heavy on the praise and light on the criticism’ if at all possible.

In conclusion, he said that farmers set the culture of your business. “So in the end you will employ the people you deserve. “

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