Have you often thought of farming and building an agricultural business but you don’t know where to begin? Have you actually started but you’ve hit a road block and you just don’t know how to move forward? Well these tips will surely help you put your two feet on the ground, move forward and become a guru in your business.
You cannot start a successful business without doing your research. You need to know what product people want or need and understand how to go about delivering it. There are three ways to go about this. Firstly, do your desk research. The internet has a lot of information these days on almost any topic, so always use it to get different ideas. Be cautious however, because it also contains a lot of false and inaccurate information. Use credible sources such as, peer reviewed journals, articles published by well-known and respectable international and national organizations, articles with a lot of good reviews and articles by experts in the business you are considering.
Secondly, learn from the people around you who are already practicing and can be considered experts or successful. There is power in networking. As the adage goes, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’. Never feel too shy to approach the experts. Most times they are happy to help and share their knowledge. You will be able to avoid mistakes that they made and understand the ins and outs of the business. From your network find a mentor, whose shoes you can walk in and who can help you achieve your goals.
Thirdly, talk to your potential customers and clients. Find out what they need the most and what they are missing from a product they could already be getting. This helps you gauge the market for your product and it helps you create a product that meets a direct need. This is one step that can be tempting to skip but remember that you need to put in the work and time into research to save yourself time and money in the future.
Set Your Goals
Once your research is done, you will then be clearer about what you want to achieve, about where you want to see your business in the next 5 to 10 years. Your goals should be SMART:
Specific – clear to understand and well defined. Your goal should articulate what you set out to accomplish and how exactly you intend to achieve the laid out plan. For example, your goal may be to become a tomato producer and supplier. On the other hand your specific goal would be to produce and supply 30 boxes of tomatoes to supermarkets weekly.
Measurable – You should have a criteria in place to measure your goal. Using the example above your goal is to supply 30 boxes of tomato weekly, which already is a measure in itself. You can also set a measure with regards to how much profit you expect to receive weekly, although for a product like tomato you must realize that the profit will not be fixed due to fluctuating prices. So you could have a goal that offsets the losses made in one quarter when prices are low and in the next quarter when prices are higher.
Achievable – set goals that are attainable and achievable for you. At the same time don’t be too afraid to challenge yourself a little. When your goals are too easy you won’t be working to the best of your potential, on the other hand a goal that is too hard to achieve will have you feeling drained and useless at the end of the day. If you are already supplying 30 boxes of tomatoes weekly, there’s no way you can set a goal to supply 5 boxes weekly neither can you set it to 1,000 weekly in the short to medium term. Find that balance!
Realistic – For most of us, when we are dreaming and thinking about our future we tend to get just a little carried away. We confuse fantasy with reality. Your goals should be within your reach and relevant to where you see your business and life going in the long run. Your goals should be set in line with the time that you have to achieve them as well as with the resources available.
Timely – your goals should be time bound. There is no point of setting a goal if you do not put a start and end date in place. You will have no urgency to work on it, you may never even start it. Goals that are not time bound are often the plans we reminisce about. Have you ever found yourself saying, “Oh I’ve always wanted to start fish farming” or “I’ve always thought of doing that, it’s good that Mary is starting it instead”? Such statements are always a result of one thing, goals that have no time stamp! You will procrastinate until your vision dies out. Set your goal and let it sound something like this; “I am going to open my fish farm by the 30th of June this year and within the next one year I will open three more fish ponds and in the next three years I will be processing the fish and exporting it.”
Create a Business Plan
Once you have your idea in mind you need a roadmap of how you will get there, sustain and even grow your business. This is where your business plan comes in. Your business plan should detail the structure of your business; your team, how it will operate, your marketing and sales plan as well as your financial plan. The purpose of a business plan is not only to help you keep track of your business but to help you pitch your idea to funders and investors.
Tips for a Good Business Plan:
1. Have a competitive advantage: have something that will set your
business apart from the rest. You must realize that no matter what business you start, competition will always exist and yes, even if it is innovative someone will always copy it. Therefore, it is advisable to have something that keeps you ahead. For instance, instead of renting out a piece of land to farm you can own it and that way you save on rental money that you would have to pay monthly. Perhaps you can be your own transporter and even offer transportation services to others. Or you could provide the best customer services around. In essence it can be anything but just make sure that you do not overlook this key component of having a competitive advantage.
2. Keep it short and straight to the point: In a world where everyone is busy, nobody wants to read pages upon pages of your business plan on top of their already busy schedules. You know what the most important aspects of your plan are, you know what the key message is. Communicate those things and save your time as well as the time of the person reading it.
3. Test Your Business: You have an awesome idea but does it work? Is it viable? You need to show this in your business plan in order to make you and others have faith in your business. Things can look pretty good on paper but for someone to take a chance on something they need to be guaranteed that it will work.
4. Create Alternative Strategies: Nothing is foolproof. You cannot rely only on one method of achieving your goals, you need to have back up methods that will keep you afloat. This not only insures that your business is secure from shocks but also shows that you have it well thought out and planned out.
Lastly, no matter what business plan or idea you have, you need to believe in yourself and you need to believe in the business you are pushing forward. As you start out, you will come across a lot of people who don’t believe in you or your idea but if you continue to believe you will definitely get others to believe as well. The road may be rough, profit will not come instantly but be patient enough to trust the process and see yourself at the end of your goal successful and thriving.