Lucky for me, this column happens to coincide with the Outstanding Young Farmer edition of Grainews.Andrew DeRuyck, my business partner, and his wife Tanis were recently named Manitoba s Outstanding Young Farmers. I felt it was my duty as a responsible member of the media that someone shed some light on the full story of Andrew and Tanis s success. The following candid interview took place at my farm over two pots of coffee and one bottle of single malt scotch. Enjoy.
Mark:How did you get your start farming?
Andrew:Mom and Dad let me keep cows on the farm in exchange for labour, and Revenue Canada bankrolled the beginning while I worked professionally off the farm. Dad having a secure and stable farm from which I could build upon was key.
M:What drives you?
A:Despite Dad having this secure and stable farm he made things pretty clear when he told me, Just cause I got money doesn t mean you got money. The quest for financial self sufficiency has kept me going over the years.
M:What do you see as the best decision in your farming career, so far?
A:Learning the financial end of the business and understanding my own risk appetite. Having this skill set has allowed me to match my business and financial realities to my risk appetite.
Mark:I have heard you use the F word on the farm on a regular basis. Explain how you maintain focus?
A:Goal setting with my wife Tanis and very detailed short-and long-term business planning allows us to remain on track. We have always known what we are working towards and where we want to be in the end. When we get discouraged along the way we remind each other what we are doing this all for.
M:What is the biggest mistake you have ever made in your farm business and how did you recover from it?
A:I would say not incorporating soon enough. I put off incorporating one year and pre-bought some of that expensive fertilizer. Cash income tax made that management decision, and then fertilizer dropped significantly in the spring. This decision reminded me that my primary business is farming not market speculation. I recovered by having strength in my balance sheet and and a well-managed cash flow. What was difficult to swallow was the opportunity for profit that I gave up that year.
M:What is the most valuable lesson you learned at university?
A:Three things: The door of a bathroom stall is not a black book; never be the first guy in the pool you can learn a lot from watching others test the waters; and, the relationships you build early in your career will last you a lifetime.
M:What is the best decision you have made during your farming career?
A:Definitely to allocate time and resources to strategic planning. Doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) drove us to diversify our operation into consulting work and custom work, which has carried us through some tough times.
M:What do you see as the greatest financial risk as a young farmer and how did you mitigate this risk?
A:The capital required to operate a business that will return a modest living these days is tremendous. This often results in highly leveraged operations with extremely tight cash flow. There is very little room for error. The safety nets can be unpredictable for young farmers with cracks that leave you exposed to risk.
M:If you were transplanted onto a foreign farm of similar nature, what are three things you would take with you to ensure your success?
A:Easy! I would take you (I need good help), Dad, because I know he still has money and my wife for lots of other reasons.
M:What will you tell your son or daughter before they start farming?
A:Do it because you love it, don t risk things you aren t willing to lose and don t take help for granted.
M:What is your strategy for sustainable growth in your business?
A:It is very important to grow your business in line with equity, labour and cash flow. Growth doesn t mean more production units to me to me it means more bottom line.
M:Wow, you make managing a successful farm sound pretty easy! How do you explain your hair loss?
A:Hair loss is genetic, Mark, and farming has been anything but easy! Like any business it takes dedication, perseverance and discipline. If it was too easy everyone would want to do it.
Editor s note:Best of luck to Andrew and Tanis DeRuyck as they vie for the title of Canada s Outstanding Young Farmers next month at Brandon, Man.
AndrewDeRuyckandMarkSloane managetwofarmingoperationsinsouthern ManitobaandarepartnersinRightChoice ManagementConsulting.Withover25years ofcumulativeexperience,theyoffersupport infarmmanagement,financialmanagement, strategicplanningandmediationservices. Theycanbereachedat [email protected] and [email protected] or204-825- 7392and204-825-8443.