It’s a question we didn’t ask farm accountants when we asked them what traits separate their average from their above-average farm clients.
The days of bookkeepers and cash accounting aren’t over, of course. Every farm has different needs. But accountants and accrual-based accounting are the new norm, and the transition has helped enable the professionalization of Canada’s farmers, with all the good things that this implies.
Of course, there’s been something in it for the accountants and farm business advisors too, which is as it should be.
In our Feb. 16 issue of Country Guide, we asked writer Julienne Isaacs to talk to farm advisors about how this new agriculture looks to them, and her findings are well worth reading.
A decade ago when we did similar stories, asking farm business advisors how farmers can get more value out of their accountants, their answers boiled down to a somewhat more politely phrased version of “pay attention.”
Well, farmers took that advice, and they have been paying close attention for the past 10 years.
So this year we wanted to know, what cumulative difference has it made. What have farmers got out of the relationship.
The answers in Julienne’s article are exactly what you would want to see. In short, farmers are setting their focus on key performance indicators, they are buying into the “measure, then manage” mantra, and they’re open to high-level business tactics.
What our accountants didn’t say, mainly because we didn’t directly ask them, was whether farmers are getting better at evaluating their advice givers.
There’s no more important advice than you get from your financial and business advisors. So how good are they?
You test your advisors in the field, you compare yields, you ask questions to assess their knowledge.
So how do you score your financial and business advisors. We’ll come back to this repeatedly in the next issues of Country Guide, but this is a good time of year to ask your accountant, “Why should I be dealing with you? What are you doing to upgrade your skills? What are your objectives for the next five years?”
Ask them directly. There’s a world of difference between advisors who see such questions as an opportunity, and those who squirm.
Also ask if they are members of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors. CAFA has never been as ambitious as we would like. We would like to see them edge toward a Certified Crop Advisors role, with tighter admission requirements and standards. But membership in it has real advantages, both for the advisors and their farm clients, and it’s instructive and worth an hour of your time to thumb through the biographies on the association’s advisor listing search function, comparing your advisors to others who may be available.
Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].