In today's farming environment, it is hard to be an expert in everything. And expertise in every element is required as the industry becomes more competitive for land and capital. There's precision farming and agronomy. There's financial management, risk management and marketing. Then we have machinery work and irrigation….to name a few. One cannot do all of these things flawlessly and still have time for a life. Figure out what you love and do well and hang onto that piece or those pieces. Then consider out-sourcing as a viable option.
If the help you need is in the form of a consultant, such as a market advisor or an accountant, think about the qualities you need in that person and start there. Many farmers shopping for a market advisor want to hire based on track record alone. Although it seems an easy way to compare, you may not get the best outcome because there are so many variables. Some hidden pieces that you might not see in a track record include the cost of the recommendation. For instance, an advisor could say they sold corn at a high price. But if it included many trades that each came with expenses – when rolling up options, for example – then your net profit must be considered. This piece may not always be communicated and could possibly be hidden in the very small print.
I would urge you to hire for likeability, accountability and trust. A market advisor – when hired well – can save you a lot of time. We've had clients tell us they gain as much as an hour a day on average. They no longer watch the markets as closely because someone else is helping. There will be a lot of communication though and you might as well be communicating with someone you like. Life's too short to do otherwise. You and your consultant should have a good relationship.
Trust is going to be a big part of the relationship. In order to step away from this work day-to-day, you'll want to make sure that your advisor is acting in your best interest. Trust is built over time – but some questions on the front end will help you understand if this is someone you can trust. Do they take a genuine interest in your farm? Do they want to know specifics about your operation and make recommendations tailored to your farm? Have they asked you about your farm? Will they come to your farm regularly? What motivates them to do this for you? Is it all about money – or is there something more?
Accountability is also key. How will you know they're working for you? How often will you hear from them? How will they communicate with you? How will they come up with the recommendations? How will you know where you stand, financially? These are all great questions to ask to understand likeability, accountability and trust.