The dreaded business plans are due for next financial year and the pressure creeps in to push “business development” for the agricultural and rural sector of the firm. The usual questions flow “which work referrers are you targeting?”; “what is the marketing budget?”; and “where does the reciprocity come from?”
Having been a rural advisor for…well longer than I care to admit…it is wholly apparent to me that no amount of wining, dining and golf days has produced the quality and nature of practice that I strive for. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a day at the races as much as the next person (in case you were about to send me an invitation) but have never considered them the foundation of a longer term professional relationship.
Success in my eyes, has come time and time again from building strong, collaborative relationships with fellow experts; relationships not established in the pub or at the rugby but through a respect and trust for what they can offer the client that I can’t.
This was affirmed by a junior lawyer recently when we were driving back from a completion meeting at an accountant’s office. The deal was a land sale for a farmer that had obtained planning permission for a number of houses. In isolation perhaps a relatively straightforward deal. However, the nature and structure of the farming business meant that a wider consideration of the tax position, future interests of the partners’ and ongoing finance arrangements was necessary. Around the table sat the client, the accountant and land agent with the banker being conferenced in. The sale completed as it started; with complete collaboration amongst professionals.
After the meeting I asked my colleague “what did you learn today?” Expecting an overview of “Entrepreneurs’ Relief” I was taken aback when he said “to accept that you don’t know everything and that it takes a team of professionals to do a job properly.” Of course, I already knew this but started to wonder how many next generation rural advisors are being exposed to this level of alliance?
So perhaps in a world of increased silo working take a moment to consider, not just what you can do for your client, but what your client needs. Let’s remember that agricultural clients are special. They practise a lifestyle not a trade. Their wealth and assets are often generational and their desire is “legacy.” Every step along their journey is likely to impact on tax planning, business succession, family dynamics and financial provision. Their affairs are multi-faceted and so are the professional skills needed to manage them!
So perhaps the 2020/21 business plan should simply read “who does that better me?”